The Fertility Transition in Latin America

By JosÉ Miguel GuzmÁn; Susheela Singh et al. | Go to book overview
account for 15 per cent. In contrast, in some other Latin American countries, particularly Cuba, this proportion has continued to rise. According to the 1990 study by Singh and Wulf, referred to several times in the present analysis, births to adolescents represented 10.4 per cent of all the births in Cuba in 1950-5, but rose to account for 25 per cent in the period 1985-90Despite some differences in the patterns of reproductive behavior of young people in various Latin American countries, there is a common factor shared by all, and that is the striking similarity in the proportions of young women who begin childbearing during adolescence and the slow rate of change occurring in patterns of early childbearing. Between 30 and 35 per cent of women in Brazil, Columbia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago have their first child before they are 20 years old ( Singh and Wulf 1990). And in all these countries, even though the overall TFR has fallen, and despite the progress made in education, the occurrence of first births at early ages continues without major change. It is possible, therefore, that early childbearing will continue to have value placed on it as an important form of self-realization for women, and that education will only affect reproductive behaviour once women have demonstrated their procreative capacity. Other social and cultural values, such as early age marriage, may also be acting to slow the change in the pattern of early initiation into childbearing. In some regions of Colombia, even now, there is strong social pressure on young women not to reach the age of 20 without having established a formal conjugal relationship. And furthermore, during their first years of married life, social and family pressure is exerted on the couple their first years of married life, social and family pressure is exerted on the couple to demonstrate their fecundity. These are the kinds of values that programmes for adolescents should attempt to influence, in order to offset the adverse consequences of adolescents childbearing. This is especially true in light of the fact that adolescents are now becoming sexually active earlier than ever, and are established more consensual than legal unions, which in general are more unstable. These patterns carry with them an increased risk that young women will conceive children out if wedlock, who will grow up without the presence of a father.Formal educational curricula should, therefore, include concepts and subjects that offer women alternative roles and alternative sources of self-esteem. Such concepts would dissociate childbearing form sexual pleasure, would help women question the concept of machismo, and would encourage a delay in childbearing until women are physically, economically, and psychologically mature enough to bear and raise children.
References
CCRP (Corporación Centro Regional de Población), IRD (Institute for Resource Development, Westinghouse) and Ministry of Health of Columbia ( 1986), Columbia: Prevalence, Demographic and Health Survey ( Bogotá:CCRP-IRD-Ministry of Health).

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