Fraught with ambivalence: Reproductive intentions and contraceptive choices in a sub-saharan fertility transition

Victor Agadjanian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Demographic studies that search for signs of fertility transition in sub-Saharan Africa rarely examine the complex gamut of individual aspirations and misgivings, hopes and frustrations, failures and triumphs that accompany the emerging declines of fertility rates in the subcontinent. This study draws upon qualitative data collected in peri-urban areas of Maputo, Mozambique's capital and largest metropolis, to explore contradictory meanings and feelings surrounding changes in fertility intentions and contraceptive choices. It argues that although changes in these two aspects of reproductive life are interrelated, they are predicated on distinct types and configurations of external pressures and psychological apparatus, which is often manifested as a puzzling disjunction between fertility preferences and contraceptive use. This disjunction can be further reinforced by persistent gender divisions in reproductive views and strategies. Informal social interaction plays an important role in building societal consensus over fertility matters, but because such interaction deals with reproductive intentions and contraceptive use through largely different mechanisms, it may also help accentuate the intentions-contraception disjunction. This study's findings therefore call upon both researchers and policymakers to attend more closely to the multidimensionality of fertility transitions in sub-Saharan societies and specifically to the complexities underlying such popular notions as "unmet need for family planning," "spacing" versus "limiting" births, or "spousal communication" on reproductive matters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)617-645
Number of pages29
JournalPopulation Research and Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


  • Contraception
  • Fertility
  • Mozambique
  • Sub-Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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