The influence of gender norms on women’s family planning experiences is a finding that cuts across numerous studies included in Family Health International’s multi-country Women’s Studies Project. This paper explores findings from one of these studies on the mediating influence of beliefs about gender norms on the relationship between fertility behavior and psychological well-being. Using cross-sectional survey data from 4,908 Egyptian women, hierarchical multiple regression models were tested with depression and anxiety as the dependent variables. Independent variables included three demographic variables, two measures of beliefs about gender norms developed from survey items using exploratory factor analytic techniques, and two fertility behavior variables—use of family planning and number of children. Gender norm beliefs predicted both anxiety and depression. The statistical analyses demonstrated a separate effect of family planning use on anxiety, independent of gender norm beliefs, but the effect of family planning behaviors on depression disappeared when gender norm beliefs were included in the regression model, which indicates a mediating effect of gender norm beliefs. Although cross-sectional data do not allow for the determination of causality among the three types of variables, a conceptual framework is offered for the possible causal mechanisms for the identified relationships.
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