Prevalence practices and consequences of premarital cohabitation in Nigeria (A case study of calabar south local government area of cross river state)


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1.1 Background of the Study
Sexual activities among adolescents have been reported to be increasing worldwide. Several studies in Sub-Saharan Africa have also documented high and increasing premarital sexual activities among adolescents (World Health Organization, 2001). However, viewing youth as a specific group with their own needs is a relatively recent practice, especially in developing countries (Judith, 1999). Cultural taboos hinder young people in many developing countries to discuss sexual matters explicitly with their parents. Most information for their patchy knowledge comes from peers of the same sex who may themselves lack adequate information or are incorrectly informed. Taffa et al. (2002) suggested
that young people have limited knowledge about sexual and reproductive health and know little about the natural process of puberty. This lack of knowledge about reproductive health may have grave consequences. Moreover, sexual activities are occurring in the midst of an HIV/AIDS pandemic that is proportionately affecting adolescents and young adults.
On the other hand, young people often face enormous pressure especially from peers to engage in sex, unlicensed erotic video films and the desire for economic gain. As a result of this, significant number of adolescents are involved in sexual activities at an early age (Alexander and Hickner, 1997; Taffa et al., 2002). Young people in Ethiopia are also exposed to various risks such as unprotected sex, early marriage, early pregnancy and STIs/HIV/AIDS. Studies have shown that in Ethiopia 60% of pregnancies are unwanted or unintended (WHO, 2001).
Fikadu and Fikadu (2000) opined that premarital sex is one of the reproductive health problems witnessed among youth. Studies have also revealed that the prevalence of premarital sex among school youth is higher in Oromia (31.3%) than nationally (19%) (HAPCO, 2000). However, factors that contribute to such an early initiation of sexual practices were not dealt with in the study area. Due to sensitivity of this issue, young people receive inadequate education, guidance and services on reproductive health (Judith, 1999). With their limited knowledge about their bodies and their sexuality, they find themselves vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases and infections, including HIV/AIDS, unplanned early childbearing and unsafe abortions.
In the USA, sexual behaviour differed by ethnicity, age, and urban/rural location (Grunbaum et al., 2002). In Thailand and Philippines, family structure was associated with premarital sex; youths living with one parent have higher rate of sexual activity than those living with both parents (Choe et al., 2004). For many adolescents, experimenting with tobacco, alcohol, sex, and drugs are rites of passage. Associations between sexual activity and substance use have been a consistent research finding. In Kenya, the single most important predictor of sexual activity among adolescent women was the use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco (Kiragu and Zabin, 1993). Studies from the USA also reported similar findings (Coker et al., 1994). There is a growing evidence of young men having sex with men (MSM) exploratory behaviour among boys in Bangladesh; though no national data on young MSM is available. A need assessment study for prevention of HIV/STIs among MSM in the age group of 21 to 30 years in Dhaka revealed that the mean age of first sex with other males was mostly between 10 to 12 years (Rani et al., 2003). Most of them sold sex with seven or eight clients per night and 40% did not know anything about condoms. Premarital sex, particularly if it occurs outside of a stable union that will lead to marriage, is considered socially as a taboo.
Nnachi (2003) observed that in terms of behavioural problems, sex abuse appeared to be one of the most serious offences committed by children and youth. Obiekezie-Ali (2003) supported this instance with a United Nation’s (2000) information on reproductive health, which shows that many Nigerian girls are known to start involvement in active sex at the early age of thirteen years. The age of initial sexual experience and involvement thus becomes younger than fifteen years as found by Esen (1974). Okonkwo and Eze (2000) observed that today’s situation shows a sharp contrast to the traditional Nigerian societal context in which girls avoided pre-marital sexual experiences for fear of social punishments usually meted out to girls who lost their virginity before marriage. Apart from the blame apportioned to parents for their negligence as earlier mentioned, some people are of the opinion that adolescents are naturally open to the normal sex drive while this drive is incensed by the impact of permissive Western culture transmitted through the sexual stimuli conveyed by the mass media. Denga (1983) pointed out that sexually explicit movies expose young people to adult issues at an “impressionable age.” Others opine that the use of pornographic materials as well as knowledge and use of contraceptives, especially the condom that has been excessively advertised, has contributed immensely to the involvement of adolescents in sexual practices (Onuzulike, 2002). These and other evidence in the literature show that a real problem exists.
The study also tried to find out which factors influence the young people toward sexual practices and to what extent. This will then serve as a starting point for determining what interventions to carry out in order to help young people in their sexual adjustment.
Marriage is an institution in which inter-personal relationships, usually intimate and sexual relationships are acknowledged in a variety of ways depending on the culture or subculture in which it is founded (Markman, 2001)
Marriage as a sacred institution has its roots in the tradition of people, and it is such that two people in relationship have the opportunity of knowing themselves, and this is referred to as courtship. Courtship is the period in a couples relationship which precede their engagement and marriage or establishment of an agreed relationship of a more enduring kind (Ogunsola, 2004). During courtship, intending couples get to know each other and decodes if there will be and engagement and marriage.
Courtship in some traditional societies is a highly structured activity with very specific formal rules. In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited (Ifokobong Ibanga, 2013). The parents are often seen as part of courtship practice as their consent and approval are commonly needed before the beginning of the relationship (Ofoegbu 2002). Also, in some societies, the services of intermediaries
are required especially to investigate the background of intending marriage partners even before courtship. For instance, among the Igbo ethnic group in Nigeria, the groom to be is not allowed to approach the bride, rather the relevant proposal is done by an intermediary. With the success of the proposal during courtship the bride to be is expected to live with the groom’s family, where she would be put through a series of tests by her mother-in-law pertaining to ability to complete many household tasks. If she passed, then she will be presented with a gift of kolanuts and palm wine for her family (Peterland, 1999).
Similarly, courtship among Yoruba ethnic group is traditionally initiated through an intermediary. The intermediary tries to gather information that will assist the elders of the suitor’s family in deciding whether the spouse would be a good companion for their son and a good resource in the extended family. Once approval has been given the suitor is then allowed to visit the home of the prospective spouse in order for the spouse to get to know themselves very well before marriage begins (Awolaja, 2009).
However, among the Hausas, when a man sees the girl of his choice, he first seek for permission from her parents, after which the girl’s parents will have to make some kind of investigation about the man, regarding his background, moral ethics and of course his religious beliefs, before he is allowed to see the girl only where found eligible.
According to the Hausa tradition, the man is not allowed to spend a long time seeing the girl and this is done to avoid any physical and romantic contact; courtship before marriage is not usually encouraged in the Hausa tradition. Once the girl accepts the offer, the man sends his parents or guardians to formally seek for the girls hand in marriage (Ofoegbu, 2002).
However, in more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages, where partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents.
Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interest, which in such cultures may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences. In earlier cultures, young adults were expected to court with the with the intention of finding a marriage partner rather than court for social reasons (Amato, 2009)
Furthermore, courtship is not without its partners. Firstly, it is the serenading in which the suitor sings love songs to the girl and it is the oldest way of courting a girl. Secondly, it is about gift giving or showering the beloved with the gifts that pleases the girl. Thirdly, it is a way of rendering services in the girls home, and it is a traditional way of courting a girls home, and it is a traditional way of counting a girl. The suitor has to do almost all the hard work in the house to prove the sincerity of his love for the girl at home in order for the parents of the bride to be to get to know the suitor better and lastly it is the sending of letters which is common among teenagers, but with the boom of new technologies in communication system, young men and women exchange love notes in modern ways like texting or using computers to express their feeling and love for each other and also share their likes and don’t (Ifokobong Ibanga, 2013).
In the contemporary society however courtship has evolved and taken on properties necessary to sustain itself in today’s world. Courting includes activities such as dating where couples go out together for some activities such as meal, movies e.t.c courtship n modern society can also take place without personal contact especially over the telephone. This can also be seen in the rise in internet dating, instant messaging (BBM, Whatsapp), writing letters and sending gifts are all modern form of courtship.
According to Glendy C. Aponte (2011), there are some academic evidence that the 15-25 age group has significantly taken up online dating or courtship. This growing trend is reflected in the surging population of online communities such as Facebook, twitter, Myspace etc. which are not directly geared towards dating and courtship but many users nonetheless use it to find potential partners or research new acquaintance to check for availability of spouse and compatibility.
Courtship is such a old fashioned word that some might find its use today to be quaint i.e. old custom. Over the last few decades, courtship has gone the way of scented love letters and telephone calls. In the push for more freedom of choice in relationships, courtship rituals have almost disappeared from our culture (Addo 2010). Modern courtship bears little resemblance to the rituals that traditionally led to marriage in most countries in the past. Technology and economies have changed the rule, the expectations and rituals leading to marriage.
Courtship varies both by time, period and by region of the world. It is very valuable especially because it enables the couple to lay a foundation for the kind of marriage they want to have, how many children to bear. It gives them the opportunity to begin to plan for their future.
Thus, with modernization young people have transformed courtship into ad hoc version of their own, which is termed cohabitation which is a test-drive for marriage, for other it is an easier, low commitment alternative to marriage (Ofoegbu, 2002). Although in the past cohabitation before marriage was not viewed as the right thing to do, it is now sometime seen as preparation for marriage, while others, do it out of convenience (Ogunsola, 2004).
Thus, cohabitation is increasingly becoming a natural part of the courtship ritual, a transition from dating to marriage.
1.2 Statement Of Problem
Many young adults, especially university students, are increasingly cohabiting, but few studies have considered how this act influences or shapes their sexual behaviour. There is paucity of studies as well on what motivates or influence cohabiters. The rapid increase in cohabitation continues in abated without adequate scholarly attention to the sources of influence that support such growing levels. This study therefore examined the prevalence of premarital cohabitation and its influence on cohabiters’ sexual behaviour
Researchers have observed that there is prevalence of premarital sexual practices among youths in contemporary society, which leads to high incidence of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Most writers and school authorities from upon students indulgence in premarital sex. Some communities carry out disciplinary action on youths who indulge in it. The federal health management Board engages in series of campaigns to create public awareness on the danger and circulation of sexually transmitted diseases. But in this study, the issue of premarital sexual practice among students is fast emerging as a serial social and public health problem. Why do university students involve actively in premarital sex? Are students aware of the consequences of premarital sex?
Cohabitation as a lifestyle is on the rise in modern society either because of the refusal to notice or because of a changed attitude to this reality. Indeed, college has long served as a meeting place in mate selection process for a significant number of young adults or students (Alice Walton, 2012).
Cohabitation has however become a deadly trend in Nigeria’s tertiary institution (Abubakar, 2009). The number of students in tertiary institutions who live with a dating partner is now estimated to be above 25% (Seltzer, 2000). This has led to the emergence of a trend which some call campus marriage while others refer to it as cohabitation.
Cohabitation is simply an act of a man and woman living together and having a sexual relationship without being married. This is a deadly trend in Nigeria’s tertiary institution. Taking a closer look on our campus today, unmarried students do not only live together but some of them engage in sexual activities among other things which married couple do.
In this sophisticated world, where people have freedom to live their lives the way they choose, the youths, especially students are not left behind in this trend and they express their freedom by living independently with a fellow student of opposite sex, outside the promise of marriage. This arrangement referred to as cohabitation has become increasingly popular over recent decade in higher institutions. This implies that cohabiting is now the modal form of courtship which apparently is on the rise among students in tertiary institutions. The students, whose major purpose of coming to the tertiary institution is to acquire knowledge, now combined married life with academics and how serious they accept this new way of life poses another puzzle or threat entirely.
According to Stanley (2004), over half of today’s youth will live with someone in a romantic relationship before marriage. Thus, it is then becoming quite worrisome that some students who live as husband and wife are found of getting unwanted pregnancies, abortion, sexual abuse, domestic violence and other related implications. Cohabitation and marriage are two decisions students of higher institutions will make, but very little is known about what students think about living together before marriage.
1.3 Objectives Of The Study
The primary aim of this study is to investigate the prevalence practices and consequences of premarital cohabitation in Nigeria case study of Calabar south local government area of cross river state
The specific objectives are:
1. To assess the knowledge of youths/ students on premarital sexual practice in Calabar south local government area of cross river State.
2. To identify factors influencing premarital sexual practice among youths/students in Calabar south local government area of cross river State.
3. To determine the consequences of premarital sexual practice among youths/students in Calabar south local government area of cross river State.
4. To know the perceived benefits in cohabitation
5. To examine the factors responsible for cohabitation among students;
6. To investigate the opinion held by cohabiting students;
7. To explore the perceived challenges facing cohabiting students;
8. To describe the ways in which domestic chores are organized among cohabiting students,
9. To examine the effect of cohabitation on student’s academic performance.
1.4 Research Questions
For the purpose of this study, a few research questions were formulated to guide the researcher in the process.
They are the following
i. What is the knowledge of youths/students on premarital sexual practice?
ii. What are the factors influencing premarital sexual practice among youths/students in Calabar south local government area of cross river State?
iii. What are the perceived consequences of premarital sex among youths/students of Calabar south local government area of cross River State?
1.5. Research Hypothesis
The following is the hypothesis formulated to guide this study.
i. There is no significant relationship between gender of the respondents and their knowledge about premarital sexual practice.
ii. There is no significant relationship between age and premarital sexual practice.
1.6 Justification Of The Study
The aim of every research work is to find solutions to social problems. Thus, this research work would be useful to the academics, families, NGOs and the general society at large. This study will explore cohabitation among undergraduates in order to bring to notice the various reasons given by students for their involvement. Also, it may help to distinguish some of the dangers in cohabitation for adequate measures to be taken to bring the issue under control. In addition, the study will make known the prevalence of cohabitation amongst youth.
Generally, this study would help to sensitize youth on the implications and consequences in engaging in cohabitation, in order to discourage them from such practices, so they can fulfill purpose to better the family and the society.
This study contributed in the filling of some gap in the literature on cohabitation among undergraduate students in Nigeria. It is also justified on the ground that it provided a base for the understanding of the various consequences from cohabitation and how the situation can be managed. The many consequences of cohabitation among the students were made known to aid government policies on students’ accommodation in Nigeria. Understanding the complex series of interactions that go on in cohabitation relationships and the various health related problem that may result thereof was another justification for this study.
1.7 Contribution to Knowledge
This research work is undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge for man, culture and society. It will contribute to knowledge by establishing or confirm fact on the social problem of “cohabitation among youth/undergraduates”, re – affirm the results of previous works as well as support theories or even develop new theories.
This research work on the perception of cohabitation as a form of courtship among youth/undergraduates will contribute to knowledge by establishing what is currently known as cohabitation through literature review, and also add to the correctness of someone else’s work on cohabitation. Furthermore, it will provide a baseline data for further surveys on calabar south local government area of cross river state youth regarding premarital cohabitation.
Also, it will contribute towards, the advancement of human knowledge and add to the relatively small pool of knowledge regarding cohabitation which is a common trend among youth/undergraduates. Thus, it will aid other research work through its publication as it could be used as literature review.
1.8 Definition Of Terms
COHABITATION: This can be defined as a sexual relationship whereby two unmarried people (man and woman) live together in order to test their compatibility.
COURTSHIP: This is a period whereby potential or intending couples tends to know each other and plan for their future and marriage.
UNDERGRADUATES: This can be defined as a student of tertiary institution studying for a degree or to achieve a first degree.
MARRIAGE: Marriage is the coming together of a man and woman to become husband and wife legally.
1.9 Chapter Outline
This research work will be divided into five chapters:
Chapter one will focus on introduction / background information, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research questions, and justification of the study, and contribution to knowledge and definition of concepts.
Chapter two will focus on literature review and theoretical framework. Chapter three will focus on research methodology which include the study area, method of data collection, sampling procedure and method of data analysis.
Chapter four will focus on data analysis and presentation.
Chapter five will focus on summary, conclusion and recommendations.

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