Volume 29 - Article 29 | Pages 797–816  

Effects of Parental Union Dissolution on Child Mortality and Child Schooling in Burkina Faso

By Bilampoa Gnoumou, Thomas LeGrand, Jean-François Kobiané


Background: Family structure and union dissolution has been one of the most thoroughly studied determinants of children’s wellbeing worldwide. To date, however, few of these studies have examined sub-Saharan Africa, especially countries in West Africa where marital breakdowns are not uncommon.

Objective: We attempt to examine the effects of a mother's divorce and widowhood on children’s risk of mortality under age 5 and on their probability of entering primary school.

Methods: Survival data analysis methods, specifically Kaplan-Meier and piecewise exponential models, are used for analysis, based on data come from the 2000 Migration and Urban Integration Survey of Burkina Faso.

Results: Compared to those of intact families, children of divorced parents experience higher estimated mortality risks under age 5 and a lower probability of entering school, even after controlling for various other factors. This effect is large and significant during the first two years after the divorce. The death of the father is also found to greatly reduce a child’s likelihood of entering school, but its effect on mortality is not significant.

Conclusions: The results indicate that the family context plays an important role in determining two important aspects of children‘s welfare: their probabilities of dying before age 5 and of entering school.

Comments: Children of divorced parents or a deceased father are living in precarious situations and their specific needs should be taken into account in policies in order to improve the wellbeing of all children. Attention must be directed to the first two years following the union dissolution.

Author's Affiliation

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

Family size and intra-family inequalities in education in Ouagadougou
Volume 31 - Article 49

Union breakdown in West African cities: The cases of Ouagadougou and Lomé
Volume 37 - Article 5

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