Recent trends in the timing of first sex and marriage among young women in Ethiopia

Ayalu A Reda, David Lindstrom


Ethiopia has been characterized by  high  population  growth.  Recent social  and  economic developments have the potential to alter reproductive patterns in the country. Some of these developments include sustained economic growth, urbanization, rapid growth in school enrollments, expansion of primary health care, and a rise in contraceptive access and use. In other national contexts, these developments have been associated with a gradual decoupling of the transition into sexual activity and marriage among young women. We investigate recent trends in the transition into first sex and marriage among three cohorts of Ethiopian women. Methods: Using data from the 2000, 2005, and 2011 Ethiopia Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) we estimate survival curves and discrete-time hazards models to examine recent trends in age at first sex and first marriage among women ages 20-29. Results: Across the three survey years the median age at first sex has remained relatively stable at 17 years, although the median age at marriage has increased from 17 to 18 years between the 2005 and 2011 surveys. Net of the effects of education and place of residence, there is evidence of a slight trend away from premarital first sex to sexual initiation in the context of marriage. However, among the most educated women and women living in urban areas (who are a small minority of women), there is a much greater tendency to initiate sexual activity outside of marriage compared to women with little schooling and women living in rural areas, and once they have begun sexual activity they tend to wait longer before they get married. We also find evidence in the most recent survey that women who have first sexual intercourse before marriage are delaying marriage more than was the case among earlier cohorts.


Ethiopia; reproductive behavior; intercourse; marriage, Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

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ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

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