Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis examines the determinants of childbearing among young Gambian women aged 13 to 24 and ranks the respective components (or groups of variables) in order of importance. An empirical analysis is done using bivariate and multi-variate statistical techniques. Based on these analyses, it is found that the factors of the empirical model (combining the reference group theory and a Bongaarts-type framework) vary in their effect on the fertility of young women. The most important of the socioeconomic, demographic and cultural (SEDC) variables are educational attainment, employment status, looking for work, area of residence, age, number of siblings, rank of siblings, number of desired children, and religion.;However, it is an important finding of this thesis that fertility is higher among young women in urban than non-urban areas in The Gambia. This is in contrast with earlier findings that fertility level tend to be higher in rural than urban areas. Although this finding is unexpected, it is not implausible. It can be attributed to changes in the behavioural and sociocultural profile of young Gambian women, as well as improvements in nutritional levels, better medical and health conditions, and developments in reproductive technology.;Also, it is clear from this thesis that childbearing is influenced by both knowledge of contraception and reproductive health as well as opinions and beliefs about relationships, sex, and marriage. Practices such as the sexual activity of friends and attendance of educational programmes affect childbearing as well. Yet, these KAP variables can affect fertility only through the proximate determinants which have direct effects.;Except for age at first menstruation which serves as proxy for biological maturity of girls, all of the proximate determinants have been found to be important in predicting early childbearing. As for the outcome of ranking the major components of the model in order of importance, the proximate determinants are found to be more influential than the other major components that indirectly affect early childbearing. Also, the socioeconomic, demographic and cultural (SEDC) variables are more important than those of knowledge, attitude and practice (KAP). The thesis concludes with suggestions for future research and a review of policies and programmes of relevance in The Gambian context.



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