Sterilization and depression: A study of Puerto Rican women living in New York

Luz E Leon, Fordham University

Abstract

Prior research on the relationship of sterilization to depression has lacked a conceptual framework and been limited to hospital samples. The framework used in this study to explain the development of depression is comprised of two major groups of factors, "migration-induced strains" (socioeconomic and cultural variables) and "sterilization-induced strains" (sociodemographic variables and circumstances relating to sterilization). A large community sample of Puerto Rican women in the New York Metropolitan Region allows the direct comparison of sterilized with non-sterilized women in this study.^ This research does not simply compare sterilized and non-sterilized women. Drawing on the literature which argues that the psychological significance of this medical procedure is closely linked to the woman's reproductive capacity and her desire to have children, we hypothesized that involuntarily sterilized and subfecund women would be more depressed than non-sterilized women with voluntarily sterilized falling in between.^ Results from a hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicate that involuntarily sterilized and subfecund women are more depressed than non-sterilized even after controlling for socioeconomic, cultural and sociodemographic differences between the groups. In addition, the findings show that the relationship of voluntary sterilization to depression depends on who was most influential in the decision. When the wife perceives that she and her husband were the most influential in her decision to be voluntarily sterilized, there is no difference in depression between these women and non-sterilized women. However, when the wife perceives that the other family members or persons outside the family such as doctors were the most influential in her decision to be voluntarily sterilized, these women are more depressed than non-sterilized women.^ The findings suggest that sterilization should not simply be viewed as a stressful life event because of the surgery involved, but rather as including a special psychological significance linked to the woman's reproductive ability and intentions. ^

Subject Area

Women's Studies|Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Luz E Leon, "Sterilization and depression: A study of Puerto Rican women living in New York" (January 1, 1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI9613857.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI9613857

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