Volume 44 - Article 27 | Pages 627–670

Stepfather families and children's schooling in sub-Saharan Africa: A cross-national study

By Vissého Adjiwanou, Germain Adebiyi Boco, Sanni Yaya

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Date received:01 May 2019
Date published:31 Mar 2021
Word count:10874
Keywords:children, family structure, schooling, stepfamily, sub-Saharan Africa, well-being


Background: Research on stepfamilies and their effects on childhood investments is limited in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), a region characterized by a high level of remarriage and fertility.

Objective: The objectives of this study were to assess the prevalence of children in stepfather family arrangements and to explore the influence of this family arrangement on children's schooling.

Methods: We rely on recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted in 33 SSA countries between 2006 and 2015. The study sample consists of 277,726 children aged 6 to 14. Cluster-level fixed effect models were used to predict children's school attendance status in stepfather family arrangements, in contrast with families with both biological parents or single-mother family arrangements.

Results: At the regional level, the proportion of children and adolescents under 15 years of age living with stepfathers was 2.5%, ranging from 1.1% in Burkina Faso to 6.3% in Gabon. In the regression analyses, children living in stepfather family arrangements were associated with lower school attendance when compared with children living with their biological parents and when compared to children in single-motherhood family arrangements. These effects are more pronounced in urban areas than in rural areas. Finally, we found that girls were not over-discriminated against in stepfather family arrangements compared to boys.

Conclusions: Stepfather family arrangements negatively affect children's schooling in SSA. Nonetheless, further studies for better understanding of these family arrangements are needed, as well as studies of the interactions that children have with their fathers or fathers' families.

Contribution: This study makes an original contribution to the literature on family complexity – shedding light on the phenomenon of step-parenting – and its consequences on children's schooling in SSA.

Author's Affiliation

Vissého Adjiwanou - Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada [Email]
Germain Adebiyi Boco - University of Lethbridge, Canada [Email]
Sanni Yaya - University of Ottawa, Canada [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

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

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