Intergenerational Transmission of Female Genital Cutting: Community and Marriage Dynamics

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Objective: This study examined how characteristics of households and communities are linked with the intergenerational transmission of gender inequality and particularly female genital cutting (FGC).

Background: Human capital perspectives suggest that socioeconomic inequality predicts FGC continuation. This study contributes to discussions of institutional change by examining the association of decisions to forego FGC with household decision-making patterns and community gender norms.

Method: Multilevel logistic regression was deployed to analyze a pooled sample (N = 12,144) of six Demographic and Health Surveys from Burkina Faso, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Mali and Nigeria. A series of models examined how decision-making styles, both at the household and community levels (2,524 DHS cluster aggregations), and community levels of FGC, correspond with the risk of having a daughter cut.

Results: Results show that daughters are less likely to be cut when parents make key household decisions jointly. Autonomous decision-making by women at the community level was associated with lower odds of daughters being cut. However, at the community level, the impacts of women's household decision-making were attenuated when FGC was more prevalent.

Conclusion: The findings suggest that women's decision-making status is an important factor in FGC abandonment although that association is less robust when FGC is highly institutionalized. This study provides new insights into how women, families, and communities can disrupt the intergenerational transmission of behaviors associated with institutionalized gender inequality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-647
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under award number R01HD069471. The authors wish to thank Tanja Andic and Miriam King for their feedback on earlier versions of this work.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Council on Family Relations


  • children
  • cross-cultural
  • decision making
  • human rights
  • intergenerational
  • marriage


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