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The measurement and definition of age at marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa

Rwabushaija, Margaret. University of Pennsylvania. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 1991. 9125747.

Abstract (summary)

This study is about the measurement and definition of marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of its aims is the measurement of trends in the male and female ages at first marriage in recent decades using population census and sample survey data. Given the poor quality of African data, six age at marriage computational techniques are utilized in order to identify which one(s) would yield robust estimates that are free of biases due to age misreporting. The study also examines the World Fertility Survey marriage definitions for selected African countries and discusses how the definition of marriage affects the measurement and interpretation of statistics of some nuptiality and fertility characteristics between different cultural groups and also over time if the definitions have been changing.

The results of this investigation show that although there are differences in estimates between the methods, they all show age at first marriage, especially for females, to be increasing in all the countries included in the study. This finding is supported by levels and trends in other nuptiality variables that are known to affect marriage timing. A comparison between the World Fertility Survey and Demographic and Health Survey proportions never married also shows the female age at marriage to have gone up.

Marriage was loosely defined in the World Fertility Surveys, as in the Demographic and Health Surveys, to include both formal and informal unions. As a result, a comparison between the World Fertility Survey and census data shows more ever married and fewer never married women in the former than in the latter. Despite the loose definition, however, some countries' definitions were more inclusive of all sexual unions than were others. Consequently, substantial differences are observed between the countries in the level of pre-marital fertility. However, there is reason to believe that pre-marital childbearing is increasing in most parts of Sub-Saharan Africa due to increased female education, a prolonged adolescent stage, and the weakening of parental and kinship control systems all of which are conducive to the formation of informal relationships. The study concludes with policy recommendations and suggestions for further research.

Indexing (details)

Families & family life;
Personal relationships;
0938: Demographics
0628: Families & family life
0628: Personal relationships
0628: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; marriage; marriage age
The measurement and definition of age at marriage in Sub-Saharan Africa
Rwabushaija, Margaret
Number of pages
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 52/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Walle, Etienne van de
University of Pennsylvania
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL