Spousal Communication and Family Planning Behavior in Navrongo: A Longitudinal Assessment



The poor performance of most family planning programs in the 1980s, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, generated concern among researchers and led to a quest for explanations. In most countries, the alienation of men from participation in these programs was subsequently identified as one of the major causes, a finding that led researchers to redirect their attention to couples instead of individuals as the focus of such programs. Lack of spousal communication about family planning was identified as one reason for the low level of contraceptive use among women. Subsequent research has persistently demonstrated a positive relationship between spousal communication and contraceptive use. Most prior studies on this topic have been based on cross-sectional data, so that whether the identified relationships are causal remains unclear. Does communication, in fact, predict contraceptive use, or does the use of contraceptives generate communication among couples? This study addresses the question of causality by using longitudinal data from the Navrongo Health Research Centre panel survey. Results from both cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis demonstrate that spousal communication does, indeed, predict contraceptive behavior, even when other factors are controlled.