PSC Working Paper Series


The Marital Process and HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Clark, Shelley, Michelle Poulin, and Hans-Peter Kohler. 2007. “The Marital Process and HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi.” PSC Working Paper Series PSC 07-02.


This article has since been published, please cite this published version: Clark, Shelly, Michelle Poulin, and Hans-Peter Kohler. 2009 "Marital Aspirations, Sexual Behaviors, and HIV/AIDS in Rural Malawi." Journal of Marriage and Family 71(2):396 - 416. Available online at:

Using both qualitative and quantitative data from young men and women in rural Malawi, this paper takes an in-depth look at how youths in an AIDS-afflicted sub-Saharan country – Malawi – attempt to achieve the dual goals of avoiding HIV/AIDS and finding a suitable spouse. For youths in Malawi facing AIDS epidemics, we show that the process leading to marriage, with its concurrent rapid changes in sexual partnerships and sexual behaviors, is integrally related to HIV/AIDS risks. In addition, concerns about HIV/AIDS appear to be influencing adolescents’ marital aspirations with respect to the timing of marriage as well as the selection of spousal partners. Many youths are clearly failing to find safe pathways into marriage, indicating a strong need for far greater research and policy attention on the dynamic relationship between HIV risks and the marital process.


Africa, Age, AIDS, Arranged marriage, Condom use, Diseases, Epidemics, First marriage, First sex, HIV, HIV infection, HIV prevalence, HIV risk perceptions, HIV risks, HIV status, HIV/AIDS, Lifetime partners, Malawi, Marital aspirations, Marital expectations, Marital partners, Marriage, Marriage processes, Partners, Premarital partners, Premarital sex, Public Health, Qualitative, Qualitative Data, Qualitative Interviews, Quantitative, Rural, Sex, Sexual activity, Sexual behaviors, Sexual exclusivity, Sexual initiation, Sexual partners, Sexually transmitted diseases, Sexually transmitted infections, Spouses, STD, STI, Sub-Saharan Africa, Timing of marriage



Date Posted: 10 May 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.