Orphan Status and Age at Sexual Debut in Kisumu, Kenya

Rachel E. Goldberg, Brown University

This paper investigates the relationship between parental death and age at sexual debut in a setting of high HIV prevalence, drawing on unique life history calendar and survey data from a study of youth in urban Kenya. I explore differences between orphans and non-orphans, disaggregating by gender, type of parental death, and age at orphanhood. Additionally, I investigate mediating factors, drawing from the US literature on “instability effects” to examine the role played by disruption in primary caregiver, residence, and schooling. Preliminary analyses find that 36% of respondents aged 18-24 were orphaned by age 18 and suggest that maternal orphans, but not paternal orphans, are significantly more likely to begin sexual activity in early adolescence. In addition, age at orphanhood matters, with maternal orphans whose mother died before their teenage years the most likely to debut sexually before age 16. Finally, disruption in caregiver may mediate the relationship between orphan status and sexual onset.

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Presented in Poster Session 3