Where Is My Father?...........the Association Between Single Female Headedness and Teenage Pregnancy in South Africa
The question of teenage pregnancy remains a global health and social challenge. Consequently, studies have emerged identifying the predictors of the phenomenon. However, these have focused on individual-level factors and the association of single female headedness has received little attention in the South African context. This study aimed to investigate the independent association of single female headedness at both household- and community-levels.
A sample of 25,492 female adolescents was obtained from the 2011, 2012 and 2013 General Household Surveys (GHS). These data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and multilevel binary logistic regression in the MLWiN programme.
Findings showed that female single headedness increased the average odds of teenage pregnancy at household level (OR=1.42). Likewise, medium levels and high levels of single female headedness within municipalities were associated with increasing the average odds of teenage pregnancy [OR=1.11 and 1.23, respectively]. This may be linked to sex composition of single female headed households as 88% of such households possessed males within them and teenage pregnancy was highly associated with sex composition. It is possible that due to household paternal absence a teenage female may be vulnerable to sexual abuse by resident men, thereby increasing her chances of pregnancy. Reporting the abuse to the single female head may not solve the matter due to constraints put on her by gender and culture dynamics. This leads to such behaviour continuing within households and residents being aware yet silent about it until a young female becomes pregnant.
Therefore, it is necessary for government to support and target such households early to prevent teenage childbearing and related risks. Participatory creative yet educational programmes involving single mothers and their children from an early age could possibly benefit both mother and child.