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Family Instability and Early Initiation of Sexual Activity in Western Kenya


  • Rachel Goldberg



Epidemiological, economic, and social forces have produced high levels of volatility in family and household structure for young people growing up in sub-Saharan Africa in recent decades. However, scholarship on the family to date has not examined the influence of this family instability on young people’s well-being. The current study employs unique life history calendar data from Western Kenya to investigate the relationship between instability in caregiving and early initiation of sexual activity. It draws on a body of work on parental union instability in the United States, and examines new dimensions of family change. Analyses reveal a positive association between transitions in primary caregiver and the likelihood of early sexual debut that is rapidly manifested following caregiver change and persists for a short period. The association is strongest at early ages, and there is a cumulative effect of multiple caregiver changes. The results highlight the importance of studying family stability in sub-Saharan Africa, as distinct from family structure, and for attention to dimensions such as age and recency. Copyright Population Association of America 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Rachel Goldberg, 2013. "Family Instability and Early Initiation of Sexual Activity in Western Kenya," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 725-750, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:50:y:2013:i:2:p:725-750
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-012-0150-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    8. David Evans & Edward Miguel, 2007. "Orphans and schooling in africa: a longitudinal analysis," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 44(1), pages 35-57, February.
    9. Nancy Luke & Shelley Clark & Eliya Zulu, 2011. "The Relationship History Calendar: Improving the Scope and Quality of Data on Youth Sexual Behavior," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(3), pages 1151-1176, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lauren Gaydosh, 2015. "Childhood Risk of Parental Absence in Tanzania," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 52(4), pages 1121-1146, August.
    2. Philip Anglewicz & Mark VanLandingham & Dusita Phuengsamran, 2014. "Rural-to-Urban Migration and Sexual Debut in Thailand," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 51(5), pages 1955-1976, October.
    3. Rachel E. Goldberg, 2013. "Family Instability and Pathways to Adulthood in Cape Town, South Africa," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 39(2), pages 231-256, June.


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