Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Multipartner Fertility in Nicaragua: Complex Family Formation in a Low-Income Setting

Academic journal article International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Multipartner Fertility in Nicaragua: Complex Family Formation in a Low-Income Setting

Article excerpt

CONTEXT: Multipartner fertility (having children with more than one partner) is an important topic in demographic research, but little is known about its incidence and correlates in low-income settings, where rates may be high because of poverty, union instability and early childbearing.

METHODS: Data from the 2011-2012 Encuesta Nicaraguense de Demografia y Salud were used to calculate the prevalence of multipartner fertility among 8,320 mothers and 2,141 fathers with two or more children. Logistic and multinomial regression were used to identify individual and family characteristics associated with multipartner fertility.

RESULTS: Among those with multiple children, 33% of mothers and 41% of fathers had had children with more than one partner. The prevalence of multipartner fertility was elevated among less-educated women, nonreligious men, and women and men who had grown up in urban areas (odds ratios, 1.3-1.6). Multipartner fertility was associated with lower current household wealth among mothers, and with increased risk of single parenthood and higher fertility among mothers and fathers. Fathers who had had multiple fertility partners were six times as likely as fathers with one fertility partner to report not providing financial support to, or sharing their surname with, at least one of their biological children.

CONCLUSION: Multipartner fertility is a critical demographic and social phenomenon that may contribute to and reflect important gender and family structure inequalities in Nicaragua. Mothers with multipartner fertility may be at especially high risk of raising children without the children's fathers and with low levels of economic support.

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2017, 43(1): 29-38, https://doi .org/10.1363/43e3317

The process of family formation has changed dramatically during the past 40 years, as levels of nonmarital childbearing, cohabitation and union dissolution have increased around the world. (1) One consequence of these demographic changes is increasing rates of multipartner fertility, or having children with more than one partner. Multipartner fertility has emerged as a focus of demographic research, particularly in the United States and other developed countries.

Although research indicates that these trends in nonmarital childbearing and union instability are also occurring in developing countries, (2) little is known about multipartner fertility in these settings. This study begins to address this gap by examining multipartner fertility in Nicaragua, a Latin American country where 45% of the population lives on less than US$1 per day. (3) Although childbearing in Latin America traditionally has occurred within stable unions, recent research suggests that, throughout the region, unions are increasingly unstable (2) and the proportion of births that occur outside of marriage is rising. (4) In this context, multipartner fertility is a potentially important and understudied aspect of family formation.

To advance our understanding of multipartner fertility in a low-income country, we pose the following research questions: What are the rates of multipartner fertility among mothers and fathers in Nicaragua? How are individual sociodemographic characteristics associated with such fertility? Finally, how do the current family characteristics of mothers and fathers with a history of multipartner fertility differ from the family characteristics of those with only one fertility partner?

We address these questions using national data from the 2011-2012 Encuesta Nicaraguense de Demografia y Salud (ENDESA), (*) which asked women and men about their fertility partners, socioeconomic status and family structure. We focus on Nicaragua because of the country's relatively high rates of union dissolution and early childbearing, events that potentially set individuals on a path toward multipartner fertility. …

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