Fertility decision -making by couples amongst the Luo of Kenya

Angela Ruth Reynar, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation addresses the question of relative reproductive control between couples in a rural East African setting. It asks one fundamental question: which member of the couple, the husband or the wife, is able to make decisions about the couple's reproductive behavior? While the ethnographic literature suggests that men have normative control of reproduction in East Africa, little is known about the actual relative power that marital partners wield in decision making about fertility and about the influence that they exert on each other's reproductive intentions. The data used come from a survey conducted amongst Luos living in South Nyanza District, Kenya. The study benefits particularly from the nature of its data, which are longitudinal and couple based. Logistic regression and structural equation modeling methodologies are used to investigate the research question. This study divides the fertility decision making process into two steps: the formation of fertility intentions, particularly the influence of one partner's fertility desires upon the fertility intentions of the other, and the translation of these fertility intentions into fertility-related behavior. This allows the relative power of each member of the couple to change depending upon which step is examined. In the first step I find that a husband does not have more influence over his wife's fertility intention than she does over his. In the second step I examine three fertility-related behaviors: spousal communication about family planning, current contraceptive use and actual fertility. I find that the relative influence of the marital partners changes depending both on which fertility-related behavior and on whether the husband's or the wife's report of the behavior is examined. The husband's fertility intention has more influence than the wife's fertility intention over whether there is spousal communication about family planning. Current contraceptive use is influenced equally by both the husband's and the wife's fertility intentions. Both partners' fertility intentions equally influence the wife's report of actual fertility but the husband's fertility intention has more influence than the wife's fertility intention over the husband's report of actual fertility.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Reynar, Angela Ruth, "Fertility decision -making by couples amongst the Luo of Kenya" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965553.