This paper examines Guinean women's perspectives on childbearing, family size, and contraception from different stages of the life course, or kare (in Mandinka).The kare begin with deng muso (a child), and continue through sunkuru ni, sunkuru, salibani, and koro muso to muso ba koro (the highest stage, comprised of the oldest women who are closest to the ancestors). Despite some older women's claims that family size is shrinking, there is no statistical evidence of a change in fertility. Using a life course framework helps to account for some of the older women's observations. Women's reproductive intentions vary according to their life course stage, and both their actions and explanations of their own and other women's behavior reflect this variation. Yet it is women in the younger kare who say they want large numbers of children (with the exception of women in school) and those of the older kare who speak more about limited household resources and the need for contraception. While the life course framework explains a good deal of the variation in reproductive talk and behavior, one must also take into account historical changes that have occurred over the past fifty years, which also have a bearing on the life perspectives of women of different cohorts.


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pp. 63-81
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