The demographic, socio-economic and cultural factors influencing non-marital fertility in Makueni District, Kenya
Masua, Jackson Musau
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Fertility has been and is a major determinant of population growth in Kenya. The country has witnessed increasing levels of non-marital fertility The rates are high for the unmarried women (KDHS, 2003). While the majority of non-marital births occur to women aged 18 years and older, little is known about the factors that influence their decisions to have children out of wedlock. Hence the main objective of this study was to investigate the factors influencing non-marital fertility in Makueni District of Kenya. A rural -peri-urban appraisal survey design was adopted targeting women aged between 15 to 49 years who had non-marital births. A total of 120 women from the study areas were included in the sample. The primary data on the demographic, socio-economic and cultural factors that influenced non-marital fertility in the district were collected using questionnaires, focus group discussions and interviews then analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and presented using: Frequency tables, Percentages and histograms. Chi-square test (x2) was used to test the proposed hypotheses at a significance level of 0.05. Correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between age at sex debut, age at first child, number of likely fathers and non-marital births. The findings from the study revealed that, there are high proportions of nonmarital births and female headed families in Makueni District; majority of whom are single (60%), divorced (23.3%), cohabiting (10%) or widowed (6.7%).Results on correlation relationship between age at sex debut and age at first child birth revealed a positive correlation (0.565) indicating that women who engaged in pre-marital sex while young gave birth to their first child while young. The results further revealed a correlation coefficient of (0.784), between the number of children per mother and the number of likely fathers to the children, which suggests that, the total number of nonmarital births is positively correlated to the number of likely fathers. It was also revealed that there was a negative correlation of (- 0.124) between age at first child and the total number of children per mother, meaning that women who delay to get their first child were likely to have few non-marital births with age. Demographic factors such as: age of respondent, age at sex debut and age at first child birth were found to significantly influent non-marital fertility. Similarly the following socio-economic factors were also found significant. These include: family background (parents level of education and occupation), respondents level of education and occupation, child's likely fathers level of education and occupation, prior-knowledge on reproductive health and sexuality before age 18, mass media influence and age of partner at sexual debut. Cultural shifts, changing family values, gender roles, debut of sexual behaviour and contraceptive use were also significant. From the FGD's it was revealed that non-marital births have implications to the mothers and their children. The mothers experienced social stigma, low education achievement, economic hardship, and shortage of time with their children and stress while the children experienced the problem of indiscipline, personality development, social stigma, low educational achievement and unstable living conditions. From the study findings it was recommended that the government should target young children and especially the girls from disadvantaged families and ensure that they get quality education. It should also increase entrepreneurial education and labour market opportunities for the unmarried mothers, promote responsive childbearing behaviour, provide reproductive / sexual information, engage the media by promoting programmes that discourage non- marital sex and increase public awareness on the consequences of non-marital pregnancies.