Marital coitus across the life course

J Biosoc Sci. 2005 Jul;37(4):499-518. doi: 10.1017/s002193200400690x.


It remains unclear whether the frequency of marital coitus does in fact decline universally across the life course, what shape that decay normally takes, and what best accounts for it: increasing marriage duration, women's age or age of their partners. Using cross-sectional Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data of 91,744 non-abstaining women in their first marriage, a generalized linear model is used to determine if there is a consistent pattern in the life course pattern of degradation in the frequency of marital coitus. Datasets were drawn from nineteen countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Use of very large samples allows proper disentangling of the effects of women's age, husband's age and marital duration, and use of samples from multiple countries allows consideration of the influence of varied prevailing fertility regimes and fertility-related practices on life course trajectories. It is found that declining coital frequency over time seems a shared demographic feature of human populations, but whether marriage duration, wife's age or husband's age is most responsible for that decline varies by country. In many cases, coital frequency actually increases with women's age into their thirties, once husband's age and marriage duration are taken into account, but in most cases coital frequency declines with husband's age and marital duration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa
  • Age Factors
  • Americas
  • Asia
  • Birth Intervals
  • Coitus*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models*
  • Male
  • Marriage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity