Who Decides? Fertility and Childbearing Experiences of Young Married Couples in Ethiopia

Vincenzo Vinci
Marriage and parenthood
Working paper
YL-WP196.pdf556.86 KB

This working paper explores the way young couples in Ethiopia make decisions about fertility and childbearing, and examines their experiences of contraceptive use. It draws on longitudinal qualitative data and quantitative information from young mothers and fathers, spouses, caregivers, community representatives and service providers in eight communities. The paper focuses on the following research questions: (1) What is the relationship between early marriage and young parenthood? (2) What are the experiences of fertility and childbearing among young married couples? (3) What factors affect the decision-making powers of young married people?

The findings show that early marriage is associated with early fertility, and that women’s autonomy over fertility and childbearing is constrained by poverty, with social and religious norms widening
the gender gap. It also reveals that there are negative perceptions of contraception use, stemming from a lack of knowledge, and that social and religious norms and expectations obstruct contraception uptake among young women in urban and rural settings. Couples in rural areas have limited knowledge and information about contraception and childbearing, while their urban counterparts are better informed.

The paper recommends the implementation of existing gender equality policies (related to Sustainable Development Goal 5) regarding fertility and childbearing, through the creation of stronger and more gendered approaches to family planning policies and programmes to address the health needs and rights of both men and women. Formal communication interventions targeting different actors at different levels with increased reproductive health education need to be strengthened, to address the knowledge and information gap in fertility and childbearing. Finally, adequate laws and interventions that consider encouraging social norms that delay the age of first marriage and childbearing should be in place to address the persistence of deep-rooted gender norms regarding early marriage and early fertility.

Neglected experiences: Fertility and childbearing among young people in Ethiopia

Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper

This policy brief draws on a qualitative study of young people in eight rural and urban communities who are part of the Young Lives longitudinal study of 3,000 children and young people in Ethiopia. 

The study investigates experiences of fertility and childbearing among young mothers and fathers, whose voices are rarely heard in the debates on child marriage.

This policy brief is based on the following working paper: Chuta, N., K. Birhanu and V. Vinci (2020) Who Decides? Fertility and Childbearing Experiences of Young Married Couples in Ethiopia, Young Lives Working Paper 196, Oxford: Young Lives. This is one of a set of eight briefs summarising key findings and policy implications from eight corresponding working papers based on the research for the Young Lives fifth-wave qualitative survey in 2019. 

“How could he help me?”: The gendered experiences of young parents in Ethiopia

Nikki van der Gaag
Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper

This policy brief draws on qualitative research relating to young parents and their children in seven communities (urban and rural) who are part of the Young Lives longitudinal study of 3,000 young people in Ethiopia.  The analysis reveals the gendered roles that young mothers and fathers play in childcare and children’s health, the norms and structures that drive the unequal sharing of that care, and how young parents use health services.

This policy brief follows working paper: Tiumelissan, A., K. Birhanu, A. Pankhurst and V. Vinci (2020) “Caring for a baby is a mother’s responsibility”: Parenting and Health Service Experiences of Young Mothers and Fathers in Young Lives Communities in Ethiopia, Young Lives Working Paper 195, Oxford: Young Lives and is one of a set of eight briefs summarising key findings and policy implications from eight corresponding working papers based on the research for the Young Lives fifth-wave qualitative survey in 2019.

“Caring for a baby is a mother’s responsibility” Parenting and Health Service Experiences of Young Mothers and Fathers in Ethiopia

Vincenzo Vinci
Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper
YL-WP195.pdf447.57 KB

This working paper draws on data from Young Lives and focuses on 29 young families. The paper addresses two main issues: the roles of the young mothers and fathers in parenting, and the health services available to them.

The findings suggest that parenting is almost exclusively the role of young mothers, in addition to other domestic work, helping husbands with agricultural work, and, for some, engaging in income-generating work outside the home. Because of patriarchal norms, this division of labour is accepted by almost all. The role of fathers seems to be limited mainly to income provision, and they were not expected to be actively involved in childrearing, apart from playing with their children in their spare time. There were some exceptionally supportive fathers who helped their wives even with what is culturally considered to be women’s domestic work. However, there were also others who were unsupportive or who spent the money they made on alcohol and were not providing for their family as expected. The role of the extended family was found to be of paramount importance, especially for first- time mothers. This was especially true of grandmothers and sisters- in-law, and to some extent grandfathers. Neighbours also played a key role, but their involvement was found to be diminishing in some cases.

Access to health services has improved as a result of the expansion of the health extension service and its staff, for which the young people in the study were mostly grateful. Community-based health insurance, involving small annual contributions that enable access to services, was also appreciated by most. However, young people expressed concern that the insurance did not cover all essential medication, requiring them to pay additional costs they could not afford.

Love Alone is Not Enough: The Challenges of Separation and Divorce Among Young Couples in Ethiopia

Nikki van der Gaag
Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper

This policy brief draws on qualitative research relating to young people in four communities (one urban and three rural) who are part of the Young Lives longitudinal study of 3,000 children and young people in Ethiopia. Divorce and separation among young people is a rarely studied topic, and our insights show the difficulties young people face in their relationships and marriages, and the impacts of poverty, age, gender and location.

This brief is based on the following working paper: Pankhurst, A. and G. Crivello (2020) When Things Fall Apart: Separation and Divorce Among Adolescents and Young Couples in Ethiopia, Young Lives Working Paper 193, Oxford: Young Lives and is one of a set of eight briefs summarising key findings and policy implications from eight corresponding working papers based on Young Lives fifth-wave qualitative research in 2019.

When Things Fall Apart: Separation and Divorce Among Adolescents and Young Couples in Ethiopia

Gina Crivello
Marriage and parenthood
Working paper

While there is rightly a major focus on child marriage, we know very little about separation and divorce among young couples, either in Ethiopia or elsewhere. How do they negotiate their relationships? What contributes to relationship breakdown? What access do they have to support and services? And what happens after they separate?

This working paper uses qualitative evidence from the Young Lives study to answer some of these questions. It is based on interviews with 59 young people from two rural and two urban locations. It examines the impacts of poverty, age, gender and location, and reflects on the implications for policy and programming. This working paper and the accompanying policy brief are part of a set of eight working papers and eight policy briefs on gendered transitions into young adulthood in Ethiopia to be published in coming weeks. 

Continuity and Change: Marriage and Parenthood Among Ethiopian Adolescents (Amharic)

Marriage and parenthood
Research Report
5

Continuity and Change Marriage and Parenthood Among Ethiopian Adolescents

Marriage and parenthood
Research Report
5

Supporting Married, Cohabiting and Divorced Adolescents: Insights from Comparative Research

Gender, adolescence & youth
Gender
Adolescence and youth
Trajectories
Transitions
Early marriage and FGM
Marriage and parenthood
Policy paper

This is the 2nd policy brief from the Young Marriage and Parenthood Study (YMAPS), a qualitative research study carried out between 2017 and 2020 by Young Lives and Child Frontiers in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states), Peru, and Zambia. It highlights findings from the study and proposes policy recommendations to ensure that young people experiencing marriage, co-habitation and parenthood feel safe and cared for in their relationships; live a dignified life despite poverty; are able to return to, or finish their education and access training; and most importantly, to ensure that their own children go to school in order to give them a better future.  Understanding, supporting and listening to this generation of adolescents who have married or cohabited and become parents in a critical step in breaking the cycle of young marraige for the next generation and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.