Early View

Decision Making and Communication About Child Spacing Among Somali Couples in Minnesota

CONTEXT

Since civil unrest broke out in Somalia in the 1990s, large numbers of Somalis have immigrated to Western countries, including the United States. It is unknown whether these immigrants maintain their cultural norms of low contraceptive use and high fertility when they live in settings with different norms.

METHODS

In 2016, interviews were conducted in Minnesota with Somali immigrants and refugees to explore couple communication and decision making regarding child spacing. Nineteen married men and women aged 25–51 were interviewed. After a coding scheme was developed, key themes were identified and examined by participants’ sex, number of children and age of arrival in the United States.

RESULTS

Most participants discussed child spacing with their spouse and had positive or neutral experiences. Some participants, especially those with multiple children, stated that living in their new country had influenced their fertility desires. Only those who had arrived after the age of 20 mentioned that experiencing closely spaced births had motivated them to discuss child spacing. Participants emphasized the importance of information sharing, compromise and joint decision making with their spouse. Priority for child‐spacing decision making was granted to women, largely because of their primary role in childbirth. Men who had arrived in the United States before turning 20 were more definitive about giving women decision‐making priority.

CONCLUSIONS

These findings provide insight into how Somali immigrant and refugee couples communicate and make decisions about child spacing, and may be helpful in informing the development of culturally specific reproductive health programs.

Authors' Affiliations

Carie Muntifering Cox is assistant professor, St. Catherine University, St. Paul. Fathi Ahmed is program navigator, International Institute of Minnesota, St. Paul. Ashley Mitchell is instructor, Rothenberger Institute, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis. Abdillahi Ganey is consultant, Tusmo Research and Consulting, Hargeisa, Somaliland. Adar Kahin is community health organizer, and Abdillahi Kahin is program coordinator, both at WellShare International, Minneapolis.

Disclaimer
The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the Guttmacher Institute.

Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

Support Our Work

Your support enables the Guttmacher Institute to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States and globally through our interrelated program of high-quality research, evidence-based advocacy and strategic communications.