Immaculate conceptions in sub-saharan Africa: exploratory analysis of inconsistencies in the timing of first sexual intercourse and first birth

Soc Biol. Fall-Winter 1995;42(3-4):151-61. doi: 10.1080/19485565.1995.9988897.

Abstract

Survey data from a number of developing countries show that a considerable proportion of parous women report that they had their first birth one or more years before they first had sexual intercourse. In this paper, I use data from eight African Demographic and Health Surveys to explore factors that contribute to cross-national differentials in the prevalence of these "immaculate conceptions." The results suggest that this data problem results not only from recall errors, but also from the fact that some respondents misinterpret the question on first sexual intercourse and report their age at the onset of intercourse with either their first or current husband rather than their age at sexual initiation.

PIP: Survey data from a number of developing countries show that a considerable proportion of parous women report having their first birth one or more years before they had first sexual intercourse. Data are used from African Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 1986 and 1989 in Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Togo, and Zimbabwe among women aged 15-49 to explore which factors contribute to cross-national differentials in the prevalence of such misreporting on fertility and sexual behavior. Survey sample sizes range from 3200 in Mali to 7150 in Kenya. Analysis of the data found that the problem results from both recall errors and because some survey respondents misinterpret the question on first sexual intercourse. Instead of reporting the age at which they first ever had sexual intercourse, some women report the age at which they first had sex with either their first or current husband.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Botswana
  • Burundi
  • Coitus*
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Labor, Obstetric*
  • Liberia
  • Mali
  • Marriage
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Togo
  • Zimbabwe