Student Author(s)

Sydney Hudock
Judith L. Gibbons

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Katelyn Poelker, Psychology

Document Type


Event Date



Empowerment, an individual’s ability to exercise authority and control over their life, can be expressed in a variety of ways. One indicator of empowerment affecting women is their ability to have their ideal number of children. However, culturally imposed gender roles may pose a barrier to women’s empowerment. In Latin American culture, machismo promotes hyper-masculinity and Marianismo encourages women to embody the Virgin Mary. This study assessed the relationship between empowerment of Latin American women and their ability to have their ideal number of children. Empowerment was measured with respect to educational, economic, social, and contraceptive domains using Demographic Health Survey data (N = 25,996) from Colombia (n = 12,458), Guatemala (n = 7,168), and Honduras (n = 6,370). A series of Analyses of Covariance (ANCOVA) tested indicators of women’s empowerment with respect to their number of living children while controlling for their ideal number. Education was a significant means of empowerment in all three countries studied, as women with higher levels of education had fewer children. Economic decision-making was significantly related to the number of children for women in Guatemala and Honduras. Colombia, the wealthiest country, had no significant findings in the economic domain. Social empowerment, however, was particularly powerful there (e.g., making healthcare decisions). Colombian and Honduran women with knowledge of contraceptives reported having fewer children. Findings can be used to empower women in country-specific programs. Educational programs would serve as a means of empowerment for women in all three countries. Programs with an emphasis on contraceptive education would benefit women from Colombia and Honduras, while social programs would be most relevant for women from Colombia. Guatemalan and Honduran women stand to benefit from both social and economic empowerment programs. Overall, the goal is to increase women’s independence and ownership of decision-making in their lives.

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