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Sex preference and contraceptive behaviour among men in Mbeya region, Tanzania
  1. Eleuther A Mwageni, BA (Ed), MA, PhD, Lecturer1,
  2. Augustine Ankomah, BA (Ed), MA, PhD, Lecturer2 and
  3. Richard A Powell, BA, MA, MSc, formerly Research Fellow3
  1. Development Studies Institute, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania
  2. School of Health, University of Teesside, Middlesborough, TS1 3BA, UK
  3. School of Postgraduate Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  1. Correspondence Augustine Ankomah, Senior Lecturer, School of Health, University of Teeside, Middlesborough, TS1 3BA, UK. Tel: 01642 342769, email: A.Ankomah{at}


While recent studies confirm parental child sex preference in less developed countries, its pattern varies. Son preference is especially prevalent in Bangladesh, China, India, and Pakistan. Sex preference in sub-Saharan Africa is a neglected area of enquiry. Completed research focuses on women's views to the neglect of men, despite the latter's importance as primary decision-makers.

This study identifies factors influencing contraceptive behaviour among men in Mbeya region, Tanzania, demonstrating how it is affected by their preferred family sex composition. Data used were collected from a cross-sectional survey of 600 men aged 16-50 and six focus groups conducted in the region's rural and urban areas.

Using single statements and Coombs' Scales, sex preference was found to be prevalent in the study area, with sons strongly preferred to daughters. Sex preference is significantly associated with the number of existing daughters a man has, his marital status, residence and occupation.

Findings suggest programmes should be initiated to challenge men's attitudes towards one-sex family composition. Men should be educated about the advantages of small family sizes and persuaded that both children's sexes are equally important. Such measures can assist men in reconsidering their desired family sizes, reduce biases towards one sex, minimise marital problems and improve women's status. Efforts to increase contraceptive use in Tanzania will be hampered, however, if men maintain their preference for sons over daughters.

  • contraception
  • contraceptive behaviour
  • men
  • sex preference
  • tanzania

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