Individual and Community-level Correlates of Premarital Childbearing in South Africa.
South Africa is one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where marriages have declined significantly. Consequently, there have been significant changes in childbearing among women. Most of these changes have been influenced by the steady increase in age at first marriage amidst improvements in women’s education and participation in the labor force. For many women in South Africa, both young and old, premarital fertility remains an important topic of concern because it has important demographic, social, economic, and health implications for mothers and their children. Thus, the overall aim of this study is to examine the individual and community-level correlates of premarital fertility among women age 25 to 49 years in South Africa. Using data from the South African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS) 2016, the study examines premarital fertility among a sample of women age 25 to 49 years who have ever given birth and ever been in a union (N=3008). In the study, 57.3% of births were premarital in comparison to 42.7% that occurred in a union. Currently married women (58%) in comparison to formerly married women (53.4%) were more likely to experience a premarital birth. A few statistically significant variables were associated with premarital fertility in the bivariate analysis including age at first birth, age at first sex as well as the level of education. In the logistic regression, age at first birth and wealth at the individual level were significantly associated with premarital birth. Women who were older than 18 years when they had their first birth had lower odds of reporting a premarital birth in comparison to those who were younger than 18 years at the time of their first birth [OR: 0.4, 95% CI:0.3-0.5, p<0.05]. In addition, women in the lowest wealth quintile had 2.2 times the odds of reporting a premarital birth compared to women from the highest wealth quintile [95% CI: 1.4-3.5, p<0.05]. The findings of this study highlight important factors associated with premarital fertility among women age 25 to 49 years in the South African context. Policies and interventions should address the correlates associated with premarital fertility as a step toward improving the socio-economic circumstances of women as well as advancing gender equality.
KEY WORDS: Premarital fertility, women, South Africa, DHS