Decision-making regarding fertility and family planning involves a complex process of discussion and negotiation by married couples. This study investigates how various social, demographic, and economic factors influence spousal agreement on waiting time to next birth. We also explore how the practice of polygyny in the society affects spousal agreement on waiting time to next birth.
The study uses nationally-representative samples of matched cohabiting couples included in 14 recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in sub-Saharan Africa (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Chad from west and central Africa; and Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Namibia from eastern and southern Africa), conducted during 1999 to 2004. We compare reported waiting time to next birth by the husband and the wife to measure spousal agreement or disagreement. Couples where the difference is within ±2 months are defined as having agreement on waiting time to next birth. We examine the influence of selected social, economic, and demographic characteristics of couples on spousal agreement on waiting time to next birth, using binary logistic regression.
We find that in sub-Saharan Africa spousal agreement on waiting time to next birth is associated with wanting the next child sooner. When the spouses disagree on waiting time to next birth, the wives want to wait longer than their husbands in most cases. Additionally, we find that the demographic factors are the primary determinants of spousal agreement on waiting time to next birth, not the socioeconomic factors. The strongest predictor of waiting time to next birth is infecundability. In most countries, cohabiting couples with fewer children and couples with infecund wives are more likely to agree on waiting time to next birth. Wife’s age is also positively associated with spousal agreement. Effects of socioeconomic factors, such as education, employment, and wealth status are generally weak and inconsistent. The separate analysis of pooled data for the low and high polygyny countries also shows strong effects of demographic factors, not socioeconomic.
The findings highlight some of the challenges in developing programs to promote spousal communication and birth spacing and underscore the need for the programs to be gender-sensitive.