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Premarital birth, children’s sex composition and marital instability among women in sub-Saharan Africa
Authors: Clifford O. Odimegwu, Joshua O. Akinyemi, and Nicole De Wet
Source: Journal of Population Research, 34(4): 327–346; DOI:
Topic(s): Marriage
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: DEC 2017
Abstract: Anecdotal evidence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) suggests that it is unlikely for marriages with children to break up, especially when the children are male. To provide new empirical evidence, this study was conducted to investigate the effect of premarital birth and sex composition of children on marital instability (divorce or separation) among ever-married women in SSA. Data from a weighted sample of 205,997 women from Demographic and Health Surveys conducted in 26 sub-Saharan African countries between 2011 and 2014 were analysed. Stratified by sub-region, analysis involved the use of descriptive statistics and multiple logistic regression models with robust standard errors. Parity-specific logistic regression models were fitted to investigate the association between sex composition and marital instability at parities 1, 2, 3 and 4+. The percentage of women with experience of marital instability in the four sub-regions was: Western (4.6%), Central (12.0%), Eastern (10.5%) and Southern Africa (11.4%). Premarital birth was significantly associated with marital instability in Western (OR = 1.52, p < 0.05), Central (OR = 1.22, p < 0.05), Eastern (OR = 1.39, p < 0.05) and Southern Africa (OR = 1.25, p < 0.05). In Western Africa, at parities 1–2, women with female children were significantly more likely to be divorced or separated. At parities 3 and above, there was no significant difference in the odds of marital instability between women with majority male and those with majority female children. This study extends current knowledge about family dynamics by providing a wider view on the relationship between premarital birth, children’s sex composition and marital instability in the four sub-regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Keywords Premarital birth Children’s sex composition Divorce Separation Marital instability Sub-Saharan Africa