Contraceptive Use and the Pursuit of Education and Marriage: An Adolescent Dilemma in Rural Malawi

Sarah Garver, Ohio State University
Alison Norris, Ohio State University

Studies of contraceptive use often examine the health benefits associated with the limiting and spacing of births. Additionally, patterns of contraceptive use are often studied in relation to one of two outcomes: educational attainment or the timing of relationship outcomes (timing of first sex, early marriage, completed fertility, etc). However, these two outcomes are rarely examined simultaneously. For example, in the absence of strong educational aspirations, what else are young women aspiring to? Our analysis draws on qualitative data (13 focus group discussions and 29 in-depth interviews with women and men) collected in rural Malawi during the summer of 2013. Using contraceptive attitudes and experiences as an illuminating lens, we show how young women face a dilemma when negotiating a desire for marriage and a desire for education. Furthermore, while we typically see these as sequentially ordered life course transitions (education and marriage), they are in fact pursued simultaneously.

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Presented in Poster Session 2: Fertility Intentions and Behavior