Northwestern Nigeria faces a situation of high fertility and low contraceptive use, driven in large part by high-fertility norms, pro-natal cultural and religious beliefs, misconceptions about contraceptive methods, and gender inequalities. Social and behavior change (SBC) programs often try to shift drivers of high fertility through multiple channels including mass and social media, as well as community-level group, and interpersonal activities. This study seeks to assist SBC programs to better tailor their efforts by assessing the effects of intermediate determinants of contraceptive use/uptake and by demonstrating their potential impacts on contraceptive use, interpersonal communication with partners, and contraceptive approval.
Data for this study come from a cross-sectional household survey, conducted in the states of Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara in northwestern Nigeria in September 2019, involving 3000 women aged 15 to 49 years with a child under 2 years. Using an ideational framework of behavior that highlights psychosocial influences, mixed effects logistic regression analyses assess associations between ideational factors and family planning outcomes, and post-estimation simulations with regression coefficients model the magnitude of effects for these intermediate determinants.
Knowledge, approval of family planning, and social influences, particularly from husbands, were all associated with improved family planning outcomes. Approval of family planning was critical – women who personally approve of family planning were nearly three times more likely to be currently using modern contraception and nearly six times more likely to intend to start use in the next 6 m. Husband’s influence was also critical. Women who had ever talked about family planning with their husbands were three times more likely both to be currently using modern contraception and to intend to start in the next 6 m.
SBC programs interested in improving family planning outcomes could potentially achieve large gains in contraceptive use—even without large-scale changes in socio-economic and health services factors—by designing and implementing effective SBC interventions that improve knowledge, encourage spousal/partner communication, and work towards increasing personal approval of family planning. Uncertainty about the time-order of influencers and outcomes however precludes inferences about the existence of causal relationships and the potential for impact from interventions.