Cohabitation versus Marriage among Adolescent Girls in Urban Kenyan Slums: A Comparison of the Context of First Sex, Timing of Pregnancy and Experience of Sexual Violence

Eunice N. Muthengi, Population Council Kenya
Karen Austrian, Population Council Kenya

Though many African studies do not distinguish between cohabiting and married women, the literature in the developed world suggests there are clear differences between these types of unions. This study uses a unique dataset of adolescent girls residing in low-income, informal settlements (slums) in four Kenyan cities and towns: Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Thika. The study highlights vulnerabilities of girls in cohabiting relationships compared to married girls and sexually-experienced girls who have never entered a union. The key factors of interest include the timing and context of first sex, pregnancy the risk of sexual violence. In multivariate analysis cohabiting increased the odds of experiencing sexual violence in the previous year, as compared to girls not in a union, while marriage was protective. Results from a competing-risk survival analysis model showed that pregnancy increased the hazard of cohabitation but was not associated with entry into a marital union.

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 Presented in Session P1. Marriage, Unions, Families, and Households