Little is known about relationship types and processes linked to adolescent pregnancy and childbearing in Sub-Saharan Africa. A greater understanding of the role of relationships could help in the design of interventions to reduce adolescent fertility.
Data on 365 romantic and sexual relationships were collected from 298 adolescent female participants of a survey conducted in two towns in southeastern Ghana. Bivariate and multivariate analyses examined associations between adolescent fertility (i.e., pregnancy and childbearing) within a relationship and selected independent variables, such as the age difference between a woman and her partner, the partner’s provision of basic and auxiliary financial support, the power disparity within the relationship, and cohabitation or marriage.
Adolescent fertility occurred in 17% of relationships. Across model specifications, the strongest predictors of adolescent fertility were the partner’s provision of basic financial support, and cohabitation or marriage. Increasing power disparity was associated with greater odds of adolescent fertility in some models. Being in a relationship with a partner five or more years older was associated with adolescent fertility in bivariate, but not multivariate, analyses.
Adolescent pregnancy and childbearing in southeastern Ghana may be best understood as an aspect of relationship solidification and family formation along a gendered pathway to adulthood. Interventions that help young women avoid relying on sexual relationships as a source of financial support could be helpful in reducing adolescent fertility.
Jeffrey B. Bingenheimer is associate professor, Department of Prevention and Community Health, Milken Institute for Public Health, the George Washington University, Washington, DC. Kirsten Stoebenau is research assistant professor, Department of Sociology, American University, Washington, DC.