Document Type



All births from January 1964 through December 1969 of West Malaysia’s two main ethnic groups, the Malays and Chinese, were analyzed. Clear differences between Malay and Chinese birth patterns are shown to be related to the different cultural patterns of these groups. For both races, birth patterns by month are associated with months of marriage and with significant cultural events. In Malay society, the socio-religiously sanctioned reduction of intercourse during the holy month may be accentuated by the physical effects of day-long fasting throughout the month of Ramadan, though no direct information on this could be obtained. The high marriage months corresponded to months of high conceptions resulting in births about ten months later. For the Chinese, there was a sharp peak in births corresponding to conceptions during the period of the main Chinese festival, the lunar New Year. Conceptions leading to Chinese births were also related, though not as markedly, to month of marriage. The predominantly urban Chinese showed seasonal fluctuations which were much less extreme than those of their Malay compatriots. While this could be taken as evidence of greater influence of climate-related factors to the more exposed rural Malays, it appears that in the Malaysian context the difference is due more to the pervasive influence of Islamic beliefs and practices on the Malay way of life, since no clear association of seasonality of births with climate-related factors could be demonstrated for either ethnic group.