Gender and Behaviour

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Education, marriage and childbearing among young African women

Thembalethu Shangase, Pranitha Maharaj


In South Africa, marriage has been on a steady decline for the past several decades. At the same time, premarital childbearing remains high. This study explores attitudes to marriage and premarital childbearing by drawing on qualitative data from in-depth interviews with 30 unmarried, female Zulu-speaking students from two universities in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal. The findings indicate marriage is still highly valued among young African women but at the same time, they are aware of and eager to take up the economic opportunities available to them. While the young women recognise that marriage is essential to establishing a stable family, they believed it was not something they should rush into. They prioritised their education, and establishing individual and familial financial stability. In addition, for the women in the study, premarital childbearing was not planned but was largely a consequence of an unintended pregnancy. Premarital pregnancy is more acceptable for older women who are economically independent. The study suggests that it is important to focus on the attitudes of young, educated women in order to better understand the delay in marriage and the increase in premarital childbearing.

Keywords: Marriage, Premarital Childbearing, Youth, South Africa

AJOL African Journals Online