oa African Population Studies - Spouses' sociodemographic characteristics and contraceptive use in Kinshasa, Za re

Volume 1993, Issue 8
  • ISSN : 0850-5780



This paper examines the impact of spouses education, fertility desires, and marital characteristics on contraceptive use in Kinshasa, Zaire. The results reveal that, while family planning services focus their activities exclusively on women, husbands education and fertility desire are very important in explaining the use of birth control in marriage. This male role is crucial in understanding fertility patterns in Africa, where the major familial decisions are made by the husband. The persistence of high fertility in Africa despite the implementation of family planning has defied both researchers and organizations concerned about the growth of population (Ezeh, 1992). While prior studies attributed low rates of contraceptive use to a lack of information among potential users (Uche, 1972), current data suggest that knowledge is not a determinate factor of birth control (Blanc and Croft, 1992). Instead, in some cases increases in knowledge about and practice of modern contraception have been accompanied by a rise in fertility and natural increase (Dow and Werner, 1981). As with any other innovation, the success of birth control depends on the identification of social units intervening in decisions on material reproduction, for cultural effects operate through those channels. But as of now there is no agreement about which unit to consider in studies on contraceptive use in Africa, probably because of the theoretical predominance of the Western model of the family. For some scholars, husband and wife belong to the lineages of their families of origin and should be treated separately (Lesthaeghe, 1989; Marshall, 1970). Others locate the reproductive decision with the dominate spouses family, away from the biological parents (Caldwell, 1983). We believe, however, that each of these social units 58 Reproduced by Sabinet Gateway under licence granted by the Publisher (dated 2012.) (husband, wife, and their respective families of origin) has an impact on marital fertility in African societies. To a certain extent, ones fertility behavior is the result of his own fertility desire controlled for his familys expectations and for the partners preference. However, given the structure of the African family (Tettekpoe, 1988), marital contraceptive use will depend most on the fertility desire of the dominant spouse. In this paper we use data from a random sample of married women and married men of child-bearing-age couples in Kinshasa to examine the impact of the wifes and the husbands fertility desires and education, and the influence of their shared characteristics on the practice of birth control. Not ignoring the influence of their families of origin, we limit our current investigation of marital contraceptive use on the impact of spouses educational attainment and fertility desires, controlling for their marital characteristics.2 Background

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