Marriage and premarital childbearing in Cote d'Ivoire

Dominique Meekers, University of Pennsylvania


Recent empirical studies on Ivorian marriage have suggested that there is a fairly high degree of homogeneity in marriage patterns across socio-economic groups, and that only modest changes have taken place over time. These findings stand in contrast with the findings of ethnographic studies, which indicate that there is a great variety of marriage patterns in Cote d'Ivoire, not only between different ethnic groups, but also within groups. The discrepancy between the findings of the two types of studies can be attributed to differences in the focus of interest, and in turn to differences in the methods of data collection. Demographic and other statistical studies generally emphasize comparability and focus on national populations, while ethnographic studies deal with populations of a much smaller scale. Consequently, statistical data sources do not have the same level of detail as ethnographic studies. Both perspectives have their advantages and disadvantages, and it would be helpful to integrate both perspectives in order to get a better understanding of marriage and family life in Cote d'Ivoire. This can be accomplished by surveying smaller populations with a higher degree of homogeneity. In Cote d'Ivoire an alternative approach was used. The 1980-81 Cote d'Ivoire Fertility Survey is a typical World Fertility Survey which has been adapted in response to sociological and anthropological arguments in order to take into account the variety of cultural differences in marriage practices. A unique feature of this survey is that it treats marriage as a process (i.e. a sequence of events), rather than as a single event. In the African setting this is a much more realistic approach. In this study, the information available in the Cote d'Ivoire Fertility Survey has been used to construct a detailed typology of unions, based on the sequence of events in the union formation process. The information on the timing of the events in the marriage process has also been used to study premarital childbearing. When marriage is a process, rather than a single clearly defined event, it is not obvious which births are to be considered premarital.

Subject Area

Demographics|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Meekers, Dominique, "Marriage and premarital childbearing in Cote d'Ivoire" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9101190.