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Polygynous marital structure and child survivorship in sub-Saharan Africa: some empirical evidence from Ghana
Authors: Gyimah SO.
Source: Social Science and Medicine, 68(2):334-42. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.09.067. Epub 2008 Dec 6
Topic(s): Child health
Childhood mortality
Country: Africa
Published: JAN 2009
Abstract: Although studies have found children in married families to have better health outcomes than those in other family types, this strand of research implicitly views marriage as monolithic and, by default, monogamous as found in western industrialized societies. In polygynous cultures, there is a need to make a distinction between polygynous and monogamous families, because these marital arrangements might imply varying levels of parental support necessary for optimum child outcomes. Using pooled children's data from the 1998 and 2003 (N=4938) Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys, this study investigates the effects of polygynous marital structure on child survivorship and assesses whether the effect is uniform over the entire childhood period. In models that did not allow for age-specific effects of polygyny, children in polygynous marriages were found to have an elevated risk of death. Further analysis revealed that only older children experienced the survival disadvantages associated with polygyny.