Women’s Agency and the Quality of Family
Relationships in India
Received: 21 October 2010 / Accepted: 4 January 2012 / Published online: 13 January 2012
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012
Abstract The role of family context in determining women’s agency has been
addressed through kinship patterns, household structure, and domestic violence.
This study suggests that another aspect of family context—family relationship
quality—can also inﬂuence women’s agency. Data from the Women’s Reproductive
Histories Survey, collected in Madhya Pradesh, India, are used to examine whether
family relationship quality is a determinant of women’s agency. Results show that
women with higher quality relationships with husbands and parents-in-law do have
greater agency. Further, family relationship quality is just as inﬂuential as other well
known determinants of agency, including education and employment.
Keywords Family Á Marital quality Á Gender Á Empowerment Á Agency Á India
Women’s empowerment has received a great deal of attention as both a means and
an end of international development. Education, micro-credit, and land rights have
all been promoted as ways to help women become the beneﬁciaries of development.
At the same time, these policies and programs are seen as ways to help women
become more powerful agents of development. Empowered women appear better
able to secure the well-being of themselves and their families. While the importance
of women’s empowerment to development is increasingly accepted, the complex-
ities of the links among empowerment and its determinants and consequences are
still not well understood.
K. Allendorf (&)
Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 605 E. Springﬁeld Ave,
Champaign, IL 61820, USA
Popul Res Policy Rev (2012) 31:187–206