Conformity and change: community effects on female genital cutting in Kenya.

J Health Soc Behav. 2005 Jun;46(2):121-40.

Conformity and change: community effects on female genital cutting in Kenya.

Hayford SR.

Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania, 3718 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA. shayford@pop.upenn.edu

ABSTRACT

In this article, I analyze women’s decisions to have their daughters circumcised based on data from 7,873 women in Kenya collected in the 1998 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey. I use multilevel models to assess the degree to which women s decisions are correlated with the decisions of other women in their community, in addition to studying the effects of socioeconomic characteristics measured at both the individual and community levels. I find some support for modernization theories, which argue that economic development leads to gradual erosion of the practice of female circumcision. However, more community-level variation is explained by the convention hypothesis, which proposes that the prevalence of female circumcision will decline rapidly once parents see that a critical mass of other parents have stopped circumcising their daughters. I also find substantial variation among different ethnic groups in the pace and onset of the decline of female genital cutting.

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