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Childbearing And Childrearing

Not only are Ghanaians expected to marry, but it is unthinkable for married couples to be childless (except for health reasons). In addition, studies show that because Africans value childbearing, they tend to have larger families (Caldwell 1982). Surveys conducted in Ghana indicate that women there bear many children. Between 1960 and the early 1990s, the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) (number of children born per woman aged fifteen to forty-four) averaged six or more. Only during the late 1990s did researchers observe a reduction in fertility levels. Even so, the average family size of nearly five children is considerably higher than what is found in other parts of the world. However, family size varies considerably among women of different social groupings.

Several factors appear to explain why parents in Ghana have more children. One such interpretation is that marriage is nearly universal and also most women marry at an early age. Some also suggest that high fertility is the result of deep-rooted cultural values, norms, and practices that support the existence of large families. In this view, African parents receive more rewards from reproduction than do parents in any other society. Moreover, these upward-wealth flows are guaranteed by interwoven social and religious sanctions. Because children are the main source of old age support, labor, prestige, and marital stability, John Caldwell (1982) and Baffour K. Takyi (2001) suggest that it is suicidal for parents to have no children. Also, parents may want more children because it costs them very little to raise a child; other people help in the provision of childcare through fostering arrangements (Isiugo-Abanihe 1985). After analyzing data from the 1971 post-enumeration survey, Uche C. Isiugo-Abanihe (1985) found that about 20 percent of all children aged ten years and younger were not living with their biological parents. Similarly, the 1998-99 DHS found that about 16 percent of all households included a fostered child.

One important determinant of family size is contraceptive use. In Ghana, because women are TABLE 1

Percentage distribution of Ghanaians by marital status
          Women                   Mena
a National level data on men is available since the 1990s.
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, International Data Base.
  1971   1979-80   1988   1993   1998         1993   1998
Marital Status
    Single 17.4   19.3   19.8   19.5   23.7         35.6   40.9
    Married 72   72.4   64.8   58.7   51.9         49.4   52.8
    Consensual na   na   5.5   11.6   12.7         8.1   3.4
    Widowed 2.9   1.5   1.5   1.7   1.9         0.8   0.6
    Separated/divorce 7.7   6.8   8.3   8.5   9.9         6.2   2.2
Total 100   100   100   100   100         100   100

expected to have many children, few use contraceptives, although this changed in the late twentieth century. Between 1979 and 1999, the proportion of married women using any form of contraceptives increased from 12 percent to about 18 percent for the period (GSS 1999). Some studies also point to the low status of women in the country, while others argue that men's influence and behavior reduce women's ability to make decisions about their reproductive behavior, including their use of contraceptives (Ezeh 1993; Takyi and Oheneba-Sakyi 1997; Dodoo 1993, 1998).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsGhana - Family Structure, Family Formation, And Family Life, Marriage, Family Formation, And Childbearing