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Int Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2012 Mar;38(1):34-42. doi: 10.1363/3803412.

Stability and change in fertility preferences among young women in Malawi.

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University of Colorado, Boulder, USA.



Although studies have demonstrated change in fertility preferences over time, there is a lack of definitive knowledge about the level and direction of change among individuals, especially young and unmarried women. Furthermore, little is known about the factors associated with changes in fertility preferences over time.


The analysis uses the first five waves of data from a longitudinal study of a random sample of women aged 15-25 in southern Malawi. The data were collected four months apart over an 18-month period, between June 2009 and December 2010. Multinomial logit regression models were used to calculate relative risk ratios and identify associations between four categories of life events-reproductive, relationship, health and economic-and shifts in fertility timing preferences.


In each four-month period, more than half of the women reported changes in the desired timing of their next birth, and delays and accelerations in timing desires were common. Several life events, including having a child, entering a serious relationship and changes in household finances were associated with changes in the level and direction of fertility preference.


Shifts in fertility timing preferences often occur in response to changes in life circumstances. Understanding the reasons for these shifts may aid family planning providers in meeting women's contraceptive needs.

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