Despite the tendency of some academic disciplines to assume that the nuclear family is normative, the family takes a number of different forms cross-culturally. Regardless of family form, family members typically cooperate in raising children. Intergenerational help (from grandparents to parents and children), for example, is a cross-cultural universal. Such cooperation means that the availability of kin may be one salient factor in deciding whether and when to have children. Here I consider the evidence for whether the availability of kin does influence fertility, and whether these relationships vary cross-culturally. I find evidence from middle and lower income populations that the presence of kin does increase fertility, and that these relationships are plausibly driven by cooperation between family members. In higher income contexts, associations between kin and fertility are mixed, and appear particularly sensitive to how kin availability and support is measured. There is some evidence that certain measures of support from kin (such as emotional support or help with childcare) increases the likelihood of subsequent births, but kin support is not always positively associated with fertility. Family matters for fertility, then, though these relationships may be complex and context-specific. Policy needs to take this diversity into account, and should not focus exclusively on the nuclear family model, nor neglect the roles other family members play in reproductive decisions.
The UN Population Division currently projects the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will reach 4 billion by the end of this century, unless we see a sharp decline in the region’s fertility rates. Although the region has embarked on its demographic transition, this process is occurring at a slower rate than in the rest of the developing world and seems to be stalling in several countries. The economic benefits that would follow from an acceleration of the fertility decline are now widely recognized but the SSA leadership is only slowly changing its attitude towards population issues. This paper’s discussion of SSA population growth focuses on fertility, and the identification of factors that may lead to fertility decline, with particular attention to the direct influence of public institutions. These are the public institutions dealing with family planning programs or those designed to prepare and implement population policies and/or monitor the demographic dividend. Reviewing the experience of these institutions in the SSA context allows us to suggest ways to strengthen them with the view of accelerating the fertility transition in the region, opening a demographic window of opportunity, and capturing a first demographic dividend.
The aim of the study was to examine the perceptions of young married women on meanings and motivations of partner opposition to their contraceptive use. Qualitative data was collected from focus group discussions and individual in-depth interviews with young married women and key informant interviews with health workers and traditional leaders in the districts of Ntcheu, Mangochi and Zomba in Malawi. Thematic data analysis was done using ATLAS ti software version 7. The results show that partners’ opposition to young married women’s use of contraceptives was perceived to be principally motivated by their husbands’ quest to control the sexual and reproductive lives of their spouses. Related to this aspect are the fears and misconceptions that use of modern contraceptives would relieve young married women of the fear of engaging in extra marital affairs as they would no longer be afraid of being discovered through pregnancy. Hence, the opposition was perceived to safeguard their marriages from instability and dissolution. The paper asserts that there should be a shift in the family planning programme delivery in the country aimed at reducing or eliminating partner opposition to young married women’s contraceptive use through involvement and inclusion of partners in the designing and implementation of contraceptive information and service provision interventions.