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The Emotions and Reproductive Health

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It is surprising that social demography has so little to say on the emotional underpinnings of demographic behavior. The central proposition of this essay is that emotions are particularly important for understanding the problems of reproductive health. This understanding allows one to consider the usual determinants of personal autonomy, or access to knowledge or services, but also to take into account the fact that much sexual and reproductive behavior is motivated by emotional states that can suppress prior knowledge, services, or agency. The essay draws upon the emerging theoretical literature on emotions in the disciplines of sociology and anthropology to explore the role of emotions in behavior and outcomes related to reproductive health. It looks especially at the cultural meaning, the ideal, and the experienced reality of the emotion of “love.” All these aspects of what is a positive emotion have important positive as well as negative implications for the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive tract problems and for unsafe sexual activity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, and Director, South Asia Program, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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