Determinants of age at first marriage in Kenya: An urban-rural comparative study
This study sought to establish the effects of the demographic, socio-economic, socio-cultural factors on age at first marriage among ever married women in urban and rural areas in Kenya. The data for the study was drawn from the 2008-09 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) dataset. The KDHS is a nationally representative survey of 8444 women aged 15 to 49 years. The study only focused on 1697 and 4207 ever married women from urban and rural areas, respectively. The study variables included; women’s age at first sexual intercourse, education level, region of residence, household wealth index, employment status and religious affiliation. The study used descriptive statistics and cox regression analysis. Frequencies were used to obtain analysis of the basic characteristics of the study population. The life table technique was used to estimate the median age at first marriage for the different categories of women. A Cox regression model was used to analyze the effects of the explanatory variables on age at first marriage. The life table results indicate that there are differentials in median age at first marriage by various background characteristics. For nearly all the explanatory variables, median age at first marriage is lower among women in rural areas compared to their urban counterparts. The multivariate results show that, the effect of the explanatory variables on age at first marriage differ among the urban and rural women in Kenya. The age at first sexual debut has a statistically significant effect on age at first marriage among urban women but it has no significant effect among rural women. The results show that education has a strong effect on age at first marriage among both rural and urban women. The results further indicate that there was minimal regional difference in the risk of entering into first marriage among women in urban and rural areas except among women in rural Nyanza who were 26 percent less likely to enter into first marriage compared to their counterparts in Central net the effects of other variables. Household wealth index, employment status and religious affiliation were each found to have no statistically significant effect on age at first marriage among both rural and urban women. Thus, it was only the age at first sexual intercourse, women’s educational level, and being in rural areas of Nyanza region of residence that had statistically significant net effects on age at first marriage among both rural and urban women in Kenya. Education policies should target in improvement of girl child education to enable them acquire at least post-secondary education. Programs should target girls both in and out of school on adolescent and youth sexuality and thus enabling them to delay early sexual debut and subsequently early marriage. Age at first sexual intercourse has consistently appeared and remained a significant determinant of age at first marriage among women in urban Kenya. Given the differences that do exist between men and women on age at first marriage, it would also be important that the effects of the study variables on age at first marriage among ever married men are investigated to determine if the effects differ according to the type of place of residence. I recommend that future studies could focus on the effects of these variables on age at first marriage among ever married men in urban and rural areas in Kenya.