An investigation into the progression of premarital fertility since the onset of Zimbabwe's fertility transition

Master Thesis


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Premarital fertility, that is, childbearing before first marriage, is an important yet under researched demographic topic in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zimbabwe, the distinction by marital status in fertility research is hardly drawn. Hence, a gap exists in the knowledge of premarital fertility levels. This research aims to investigate levels of, and factors associated with, premarital fertility since the onset of Zimbabwe's fertility transition in the mid-1980s. The research employed direct fertility estimation techniques to effectively compare premarital, marital, and overall fertility trends between 1988 and 2015. Cox proportional-hazards regression and forest plot analyses were then used to explain changes in factors associated with the timing of premarital first births over the same period. Data quality assessments were carried out using the method of cohortperiod fertility rates to provide explanations for any erratic results. The results showed that premarital fertility was constant and moderate, with an average of 0.7 children per woman, between 1988 and 2015. While most premarital first births consistently occurred to younger women, from 2005 onwards, they increased among women aged above 24 years and decreased among adolescents. An increase in age, commencing sexual activity after adolescence, and improved socio-economic status including level of education decreased the relative risk of having a premarital first birth. However, delaying marriage past young womanhood, history of contraceptive use, Ndebele ethnicity, and residence in regions other than Manicaland and Masvingo, especially Ndebele dominated regions, increased the same risk by 465.0%, 45.5%, 136.0% and up to 135.0% respectively. The stagnation of premarital fertility between 1988 and 2015 while both marital and overall fertility first declined and then stalled indicates that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that premarital fertility had contributed to the stall of fertility decline in Zimbabwe from the mid-1990s. The timing of premarital first births since the start of the fertility transition in the 1980s has had a strong ethnic and cultural bias. Due to evidence of the effect of migrancy and tourism on premarital fertility in border and tourism towns, an extension into the theory of migrant premarital sexual behaviour to detail the risk of premarital fertility among border town residents who interact with but are neither migrants nor tourists is recommended.