Volume 26 - Article 20 | Pages 511–542

From desires to behavior: Moderating factors in a fertility transition

By Sarah R. Hayford, Victor Agadjanian

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Date received:29 Mar 2011
Date published:31 May 2012
Word count:6447
Keywords:fertility, fertility preferences, fertility transition, intention-behavior correspondence, Mozambique, sub-Saharan Africa


Background: Extensive research in both developed and developing countries has shown that preferences and intentions for future childbearing predict behavior. However, very little of this research has examined high-fertility contexts in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, the factors that increase or decrease correspondence between fertility desires and behavior in these settings are not well understood.

Objective: This article documents the degree to which the desire to stop childbearing predicts fertility behavior over the short term among married women in rural southern Mozambique, a context where fertility transition is still in the early stages. Analyses test the moderating powers of individual, household, and community characteristics.

Methods: Analyses use data from a longitudinal survey of married women of reproductive age (N=1678) carried out in 2006 and 2009 in rural areas of southern Mozambique. Logistic regression models are estimated to predict childbearing between 2006 and 2009 based on desires to stop childbearing and characteristics measured in 2006.

Results: As expected, the desire to stop childbearing is strongly predictive of fertility behavior. Household wealth, local adult AIDS mortality, and being married to an unsuccessful labor migrant are associated with higher correspondence between reported desire to stop childbearing and fertility behavior.

Conclusions: Both factors related to the ability to carry out desires to stop childbearing and factors related to the strength and consistency of these desires moderate the association between desires and behaviors. Future research should expand measurement of fertility preferences to incorporate their strength and consistency as well as direction.

Author's Affiliation

Sarah R. Hayford - Ohio State University, United States of America [Email]
Victor Agadjanian - University of California, Los Angeles, United States of America [Email]

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