Regional variation in age at first marriage in Kenya
The study set out to examine regional variation in age at first marriage in Kenya using data drawn from the 2008/09 KDHS. Specifically, it sought to find out the socio-economic, socio-cultural and demographic determinants of age at first marriage in; Nairobi, Central, Coast, Eastern, Nyanza, Rift valley, Western and North Eastern. The analysis was extended to national level to necessitate comparison. Two methods were employed in the analysis; survival life tables and proportional hazard model were used in the study. In addition, the study was guided by the United Nations (1988) framework for the study of marriage patterns. Age at first marriage was taken as the dependent variable. Seven explanatory variables were used in the study and these included: level of education, type of place of residence, occupation, religion, birth cohort, age at first sex and pre-marital birth experience. Life tables indicate that median age at first marriage differ by region of residence, level of education, type of place of residence,pre-marital birth experience, age at first sexual debut ,religion, occupation and one's birth cohort. For instance, generally women without any education and those with primary education enter into marriage earlier than their counterparts with at least secondary education. Women with premarital birth experience enter into first marriage earlier than their counterparts who don't have any pre-marital birth. Level of education, birth cohort, religion, type of place of residence, age at first sexual debut and pre-marital birth experience are significantly associated with age at first marriage at national level. At regional level, age at first sexual debut is significantly associated with age at first marriage in all the regions. Occupation is only significantly associated with age at first marriage in; Coast, Nyanza and Rift valley while religion is only significantly associated with age at first marriage in Coast. Birth cohort is significantly associated with age at first marriage in all regions except in Central region. The findings of this study suggest that improvement in educational attainment for women will play significant role in delaying entry into first marriage. In particular seeondary education should be made compulsory and accessible to women in all regions as a way of raising age at first marriage since higher level of education is significantly associated with lower risk of entering early into marriage. Adolescent Reproductive health programs with information on sexuality should be made easily available in all regions since women initiate sexual activities quite early and this may lead to early pregnancies/early child bearing/early marriage and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. The children Act 2001 that outlaws early marriage should be enforced and should target regions with higher prevalence of early marriages.