Being part of a social network can be critical for well-being but a significant proportion of women in rural India have remarkably few social connections outside their homes, according to a study authored by S. Anukriti of Boston College and others.

The biggest reason for this lack of social connectivity, according to the study, maybe their mothers-in-law.

The study, based on primary data of social networks of 18- to 30-year-old married women in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh, found that a woman who lives with her mother-in-law has 36% fewer close peers outside her home, compared with women who do not live with their mothers-in-law.

The authors define close peers as people close enough to discuss issues related to health, fertility and family planning.

They argue that women with more close peers are more likely to visit a family planning clinic and use modern contraceptive methods.

Mothers-in-law restrict women’s social networks by preventing their daughters-in-law from visiting places outside their homes alone. For instance, living with the mother-in-law lowers the ability of a woman to visit relatives and friends on their own by 77%, compared with women not living with their mothers-in-law.

Similarly, a mother-in-law’s presence also means that women are 53% less likely to visit a health facility on their own.

The negative influence of mothers-in-law on women changes with the mother-in-law’s views. Mothers-in-law who disapprove of family planning want more children, especially sons, and are likely to restrict their daughters-in-law’s social networks more, the authors suggest.

Also Read: Curse of the Mummy-ji: The Influence of Mothers-in-Law on Women's Social Networks, Mobility, and Reproductive Health in India

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