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Soc Sci Med. 2004 May;58(9):1733-49.

Which African men promote smaller families and why? Marital relations and fertility in a Pare community in Northern Tanzania.

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Department of Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


This research comes in the wake of increasing interest in men's roles in childbearing decisions in sub-Saharan Africa. While some of the findings indicate that men tend to hinder fertility decline, we aimed to identify which men desire fewer children, under what circumstances, and why. The research was done in a Pare community in Northern Tanzania. It is our hypothesis that differences in men's fertility desires and decisions are to be sought in the context of their conjugal union. This paper, based on data from a case study from two Pare villages, attempts to examine the relationship between male attitudes toward reproduction and marital relations. The methodology consisted of a combination of an ethnographic study and in-depth interviews. A subsequent survey, the questions for which were derived from the qualitative work, was administered in order to verify the generalisability of the findings of the qualitative work. Findings show that those men who desire fewer children are younger, educated at least to the primary and often to the secondary level, their wives have also completed at least primary school, they are more affluent, and they are likely to be Christian. They are in a marital relationship where the partners chose each other, they communicate with their wives about important issues, and make joint decisions, including the number of children they should have. The discussion relates the differences in the marital patterns and fertility preferences to differences in the life plans of Christians and Muslims in this community.

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