See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract Completion of secondary school is increasingly viewed as a desirable life goal for young men and women in urban Kenya. Yet achieving this goal often conflicts with other key transitions to adulthood, such as becoming sexually active, marrying, having children, and finding employment. Drawing upon exceptionally rich life-history calendar data from young people in Kisumu, Kenya, we explore how the timing and sequencing of key transitions affects the likelihood of secondary school completion.
Conversely, we also examine how school enrollment and performance affect the timing of sexual initiation. For men, however, romantic and sexual partnerships have no impact on schooling unless a partner becomes pregnant. Instead, paid employment appears to be least compatible with continued education. As adolescents shift into adulthood between the ages of 15 and 24, they typically undergo a series of transitions that include completing school, finding a job, becoming sexually active, marrying, and having children.
These transitions are not independent events; rather, they are dependent on the success or failure of prior transitions. Thus, the order and timing of these events matter.
To ensure successful transitions, many societies proscribe norms for the proper sequencing of these events. The order and timing of key transitions in many sub-Saharan African countries, including Kenya, however, have been disrupted by recent social changes, particularly with regard to education and marriage National Research Council and Institute of Medicine During the past 20 years, Kenya has experienced an impressive rise in educational attainment.
Nonetheless, school attendance drops off precipitously after completing primary school and continues to decline sharply during the four years of secondary school Forms 1 to 4 , when a pronounced gender gap appears Mensch and Lloyd ; Hungi and Thuku This decline partly reflects the school system in Kenya.
Although all children are eligible to attend primary school, given the limited number of secondary schools, enrollment in Form 1 is very competitive. At the end of Standard 8, students must take a primary school completion exam. All students who fail this exam, and most students with low scores, are not admitted to government-funded secondary schools Mensch and Lloyd ; Mensch et al. In addition to changes in education throughout Africa, as in other parts of the world, the transition into marriage has transformed during the last half-century.
The age at first marriage has risen substantially for women Bledsoe b ; Harwood-Lejeune ; Mensch, Singh, and Casterline ; Kabiru and Ezeh , resulting in a higher proportion of women who initiate sexual activity before rather than within marriage Blanc and Way ; Mensch, Grant, and Blanc Moreover, an equally important shift has taken place in the courtship and spousal-selection process.
In the past, kin, and particularly parents, played a large role in choosing spouses for young relatives. Today, young men and women increasingly find their own marriage partners Bledsoe b ; Bledsoe and Pison ; Meekers ; Mukiza-Gapere and Ntozi ; Smith This shift is especially evident in urban areas, where young people actively seek potential spouses Smith ; Johnson-Hanks Recent research has indicated that among young people in urban Kenya, the formation of sexual and romantic partnerships is integrally linked to the marriage process Clark, Kabiru, and Mathur This article contributes to the growing literature on changes in education, marriage, and the context of sexual debut by focusing on young people in urban Kenya and addressing two main questions.
Impact of Sex, Pregnancy, and Marriage on Schooling Among studies examining whether early transitions into sexual activity, pregnancy, or marriage impede prospects of school completion for both boys and girls, few have addressed the issue of dating per se. Yet dating may be incompatible with schooling to the extent that it is a distraction from studies Poulin or leads to a cascade of events such as sexual activity, pregnancy, or marriage Kabiru and Ezeh ; Clark, Kabiru, and Mathur , which in turn jeopardizes prospects of secondary school completion.
Earlier research indicates that pregnancy could account for between one-third and one-half of all schoolgirl dropouts Meekers and Ahmed ; Eloundou-Enyegue Other researchers have questioned the extent to which schoolgirl pregnancies contribute to dropout, however, estimating that pregnancy accounts for no more than 20 percent of school dropouts and may be as low as 5 percent in some countries Mensch et al.
Another path through which dating may lead to early departure from school is the formation of marital aspirations. Adolescent girls who find a suitable marriage partner may be enticed to leave school early rather than wait and risk losing a potential spouse. Thus, for some women, remaining in school may enhance rather than hinder their marriage prospects.
One study, however, which relied on self-reported reasons for dropping out of school, found that 11 percent of young women in Kenya cited marriage as the main reason for leaving school Lloyd and Mensch For young men, by contrast, finding a suitable marriage partner may have no negative effect on education. Influence of Schooling on Sexual Debut and Pregnancy Just as sexual activity and pregnancy may increase the likelihood of school dropout, remaining in school may provide an incentive to delay sexual initiation and avoid pregnancy.
Whether enrollment in school can delay sexual onset is a critical question, particularly in areas most severely affected by the AIDS epidemic, where delaying sexual initiation could be lifesaving Hargreaves et al. Moreover, delaying pregnancy has well-established health benefits for women and considerable advantages for their children Gage ; Zabin and Kiragu Most cross-sectional studies show a strong association between being out of school and being sexually active Karim Mehryar et al.
Results from more detailed studies using retrospective or longitudinal data are mixed. One study in South Africa, however, found that boys and girls who performed better on standardized exams were less likely to become sexually active, suggesting that school enrollment and school performance may matter Marteleto, Lam, and Ranchhod ; Lam, Marteleto, and Ranchhod Thus, both school enrollment and performance are potentially important and independent predictors of sexual behavior, but the effects may vary substantially by gender and context.
Although this previous research has shown a clear and often bidirectional link between education and sexual debut, important gaps and significant methodological deficiencies are present in the literature. With the notable exception of the study by Biddlecom and colleagues , few studies investigate the links between education and sexual debut for young men. Men and women in sub-Saharan Africa follow strikingly different pathways to adulthood.
Marriage and parenthood generally occur at much younger ages for women, although both men and women typically become sexually active during adolescence. Thus, assuming that sexual activity and its potential consequences, such as pregnancy, are unrelated to schooling for men is not justified.
Measures such as the number of romantic partners and marital aspirations are rarely available in studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, following innovative research in South Africa, we explore the implications of not only being in school but also of school performance on sexual debut.
Our study offers important methodological advances over the existing literature by drawing on exceptionally rich life-history calendar data. The ten-year retrospective calendar captures detailed monthly data on schooling and nuanced information regarding many aspects of romantic and sexual partnerships.
These time-varying measures allow us to examine the relationship between schooling and sexual activity from a life-course perspective. Most important, because these events are recorded in monthly, rather than yearly, intervals, our study can more precisely establish the sequential order of events.
Cross-sectional surveys, and even most longitudinal studies, typically provide only crude annual indicators of when transitions occur. For example, both age at first sex and age at first marriage are generally reported in years, rendering it impossible to establish the order of these events if they happened at the same age. Given the high density of transitions during adolescence, many events occur within 12 months of each other. Thus, creating a clear picture of the dynamic relationship between different transitions to adulthood requires that the timing of key events be reported with greater precision.
Data and Methods Data for our analyses were drawn from a study conducted in Kisumu, Kenya, in the summer of The study employed a novel survey instrument called the Relationship Histories Calendar RHC , a modification of the well-established life-history calendar method. The RHC gathered retrospective information on monthly changes in residence, schooling enrollment and level , employment, and household composition including survival status of parents.
The RHC also captured detailed data on all romantic and sexual partners in the preceding ten years, including when if ever sexual activity occurred, any pregnancies of the respondents or partners , and whether the respondents wanted to marry any of their partners. The RHC was specifically designed to: A comparison of the quality of the data gathered by the RHC and a standard face-to-face interview has shown that, overall, the RHC facilitates greater reporting on some sensitive sexual behaviors relative to standard surveys Luke, Clark, and Zulu Sample Selection Our sample was drawn by contacting every other household in 45 randomly selected urban enumeration areas within Kisumu.
Men and women aged 18—24 in the selected households were eligible to be interviewed. If the selected household contained more than one individual in this age range, one respondent was randomly chosen. Because many university students live in hostels, we included these buildings if they fell in our sampling frame and treated each room as a household.
Unfortunately, access to dorms where many boarding-school students reside is restricted. If a boarding-school student was mentioned as a member of our sampled households, we attempted to locate him or her at the school in Kisumu.
Individuals aged 18—24 who were attending a boarding school at the time of the survey and who were not from Kisumu were not included in our study. Selected respondents were randomly assigned to receive either the RHC or a more standard demographic survey. In the present study, we use data from the RHC only. Up to three attempts were made to contact each selected respondent, resulting in a response rate of 95 percent, with no significant differences by gender.
Most of the selected respondents who were not interviewed either could not be located or did not have the time to complete the survey. In total, respondents women and men received the RHC. We relied on two slightly different analytic samples to investigate two distinct outcomes: Our analysis of school dropout focuses on the period between ages 14 and 24, because the vast majority of young Kenyans will complete primary school during this time.
We removed 50 individuals 8 percent who had left school permanently before the age of 14, yielding an analytic sample of respondents women and men. Although we do not know why these individuals left school before the age of 14, their reasons for leaving primary school are presumably different from reasons for leaving secondary school. Among our female respondents, only one woman was married and seven had become pregnant before age No men reported either marrying or impregnating their partners before age Our second analytic sample is used to examine predictors of sexual debut.
Because sexual debut starts at young ages in Kisumu, we begin our survival analysis of first sex at exact age ten. Nonetheless, nine of our respondents had their first sexual experience before the age of ten and were removed from our analysis.
Another three respondents were removed because they did not report a date of first sex. Thus, respondents are included in our analyses of sexual debut. Survival Analysis Models To assess both school dropout and sexual debut, we use piecewise exponential survival analysis. Piecewise constant exponential models are a generalization of the standard exponential model in which the time axis is split into discrete periods Blossfeld, Golsch, and Rohwer Within each of these time periods, the transition rates are assumed to be constant, but the transition rates can differ between time periods.
One advantage of this modeling method is that it allows us to treat time as a continuous variable, which is more appropriate than discrete time methods for events measured in months. Another advantage is that because we do not know the shape of the underlying hazard function for either school dropout or sexual debut, we can incorporate a flexible hazard function that changes over specific time periods. Because we analyze the outcomes for men and women separately, we create separate piecewise exponential models that best fit their specific survival functions.
For our analyses, ties are especially problematic if the respondent reports having had his or her first sexual experience and completed or dropped out of secondary school in the same month. One of the main advantages of having monthly rather than yearly measures of these events is that it dramatically reduces the number of such ties.
In our sample, only 2 percent of respondents report having had sex for the first time and leaving school in the same month, although nearly one-third 31 percent of all transitions out of school occur within a year of sexual debut. These results demonstrate that many transitions to adulthood occur in rapid succession, rendering annual measures of these events inadequate to capture the temporal order. Nonetheless, although monthly measures result in fewer ties, respondents may have difficulty remembering events with precision.
In the analyses presented below, all of our independent variables are lagged by one month to handle ties and to ensure that changes in independent variables occur before the status of the dependent variable changes.
Overall, we find few differences in these lagged models, although we highlight the one potentially important difference in our discussion of the results below.