Changes in Family, Marriage and Fertility: Notes from Western and Coastal Kenya

Salome N. Wawire, African Population and Health Research Center (APHRC)
An-Magritt Jensen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

In high fertility populations, marriage is known to play a critical role in regulating fertility. We examine the connection between changes in marriage and attitudes towards fertility. How do different generations of women perceive marriage and family? How do changes in family formation influence marital practices like marital timing, spouse choice, living arrangements and number and spacing of children? How have changes in attitude affected fertility behaviors? We use qualitative data from Bungoma and Kwale, Kenya. We show that marriage processes are changing, favoring pragmatic unions, commonly called ‘come-we-stay’, most of which are driven by pre-marital pregnancies and lack of resources required for formal marriage. ‘Come-we-stay’ unions are common among the young cohort, but are increasingly becoming acceptable. Their temporary nature causes women to be insecure and desire more children to secure the marriage. The desire for union permanence is clearly shown to influence women’s fertility desires and outcomes.

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Presented in Session 66: Partners and Childbearing