Reproductive preferences and contraceptive use: a comparison of monogamous and polygamous couples in northern Malawi

J Biosoc Sci. 2013 Mar;45(2):145-66. doi: 10.1017/S0021932012000569. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


There is now widespread agreement on the importance of men's role in reproductive decision-making. Several studies have argued that fertility preferences and their translation into behaviour differ between polygamous and monogamous unions. Studies investigating the dominance of men's preferences over women's preferences, in cases of couple disagreement, found mixed evidence of the effect of polygamy. However, an often cited limitation of these studies has been the inability to link husband's intention with each of his wives in a polygamous union. By adding fertility-intention questions to an on-going Demographic Surveillance Site in Karonga District in northern Malawi the fertility preferences and contraceptive use of husbands and wives were investigated. An analysis of the relationship between the level of agreement and disagreement between husbands' and wives' fertility preferences was then performed to gain insight into the reproductive decision-making process of polygamous couples.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Rate
  • Choice Behavior
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Developing Countries*
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malawi
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology*
  • Marriage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult