Discussion Paper no. 05-13


A key limitation of existing research on the influence of family structure on child outcomes in cultures characterized by widespread polygamy is the implicit view of marriage as monolithic and by default monogamous. In the African context, there is the need to make a distinction between polygamous and monogamous mothers since these marital circumstances imply varying levels of parental support necessary for optimum child outcomes. Using data from the 1998 and 2003 Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys, this paper assesses the effects of polygamy on child survivorship. The study is guided by competing theses on the interconnectedness between polygamy and child survival. These findings are discussed in relation to the main theoretical paradigms.