Background: In developing countries such as Zambia, couples seldom make decisions with
regard to fertility solely in consultation with each other. At all stages of family formation couples are
strongly persuaded by cultural and social norms. In additions couples are influenced by opinions and
information provided by close friends and relatives in couple’s social net works. Social net works play
an important role in enabling husbands seeks information with respect to planning births. One drawback
of studies on expected fertility in developing countries is that they have not adequately addressed
the impact of reproductive decision making on expected fertility. Consequently, though husbands
strongly influence fertility decision making, fertility studies do not pay adequate attention to the role played by husbands
in fertility decisions making. The objective of this study is to examine the development of a planning process with respect
to timing and spacing of children.
Methods: The sample for this study consists of husbands from one hundred sixty three households randomly selected
from low income communities located in Kitwe, Zambia. Two questionnaires, one for the husband and the other for the
wife, were designed to gather data. Husbands and wives were interviewed simultaneously in order to limit opportunities
for spouses to influence each other. We examine men’s fertility decision making by analyzing data on six questions: Can a
couple ever have too many children?; Have you ever talked or received advice from any one about the best length of time
to have between pregnancies?; Have you ever talked to or received advice from anyone on methods how to space your
children or prevent pregnancy?; Have you and your husband/wife ever talked about the number of sons and daughters you
would like to have before stopping?; Have you and your wife ever discussed the best length of time to have between pregnancies
and finally, is it costly to have children today?
Results: Husbands who engaged in birth planning were more likely than the rest to believe that too many children are undesirable.
In Zambia, a rational approach to the control of fertility among birth planers is realized in social settings rather
than in isolation. The transition from natural fertility to controlled fertility is associated with modernization and accepting
modern values. Knowledge of birth control is also essential and is often associated with increases in education. However,
social networks also play an important role in reducing expected family size by facilitating a rational and planned approach
to family building in Zambia.
Conclusion: Husbands were not averse to sharing information with group members in close social networks to arrive at
decisions with respect to planning births. Recognition of the social milieu in which contraceptive use takes place is necessary
for the promotion of modern contraception. Husband’s social networks significantly influence his fertility decisionmaking.
Subsequently, from a policy point of view it appears crucial to facilitate the maintenance of the social networks
involved in making contraceptive use decisions to promote prolonged use of modern contraception. The implications for
family planning programs are discussed.