African Journal of Reproductive Health

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Social context of premarital fertility in rural South-Africa

J Zwang, M Garenne


A qualitative study was conducted in Agincourt, a rural area of South Africa, to document the perceptions and attitudes towards premarital fertility and late marriage among young adults of both sexes. Two focus groups and 35 individual interviews were conducted among 17-30 year olds, randomly selected. Most interviewees perceived
premarital fertility as undesirable, and a new phenomenon in a context of major social changes, in particular loss of authority of parents and increasing freedom of the youth. In contrast, late marriage was perceived as positive, by both sexes, primarily for economic reasons. Much stigma was associated with premarital fertility, from friends, institutions and families who occasionally apply mild or severe sanctions. Consequences of premarital fertility
were numerous: school abandonment, economic adversity, health risks, stigmatization. In extreme cases, premarital fertility might lead to exclusion and deviant behavior. Premarital fertility was ultimately due to a lack of contraception among young women, and to refusal of abortion for religious reasons, and is associated with the risk of contracting STD's..

Keywords: Premarital fertility, Age at first marriage, Perception, Attitude, Stigma, Sanction, Qualitative study, Focus group, Shangaan, Agincourt, South Africa

African Journal of Reproductive Health Vol. 6 (3) 2002: pp. 98-110

AJOL African Journals Online