Population Research and Policy Review 16: 243–257, 1997.
1997 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Financial capital and premarital sexual activity in Africa:
The case of Zambia
YANYI K. DJAMBA
Department of Sociology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Abstract. This paper examines two theoretical perspectives on sexual behavior in Africa using
the 1992 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey data on never-married adolescent females.
The results offer more support to the rational adaption hypothesis which assumes that many
young women may be entering into sexual relationships to obtain money and material goods
they cannot get within the ﬁnancial capital of their families. There are, however, indications
that some adolescents are sexually active before marriage as a result of the breakdown of
traditional social controls that elders had over the younger people. The way in which this
assumption of the social disorganization theory can be further explained is examined under the
conceptual model of social capital.
Key words: Premarital sexual activity, Africa, Zambia
Anthropological literature on Africa suggests that the concept of sex is high-
ly complex. In these societies sex is held to have magical potency, and the
supernatural dangers associated with it can only be avoided if the appropriate
taboos are observed and the prescribed rituals properly performed (Epstein
1981:189).Itisunderthe institution of marriage thatsexuality can be domesti-
catedor tamed,but even there, the use of sexhas to be ordered and on occasion
reverently handled (Richards 1940).
However, recent studies reveal that many African youths engage in pre-
marital sexual activity (PRB 1992; Nichols et al. 1986, 1987). The situation
of Zambia is the most alarming. According to the 1993 report of the World
Health Organization, Zambia has the highest rate of AIDS in Africa. Yet, the
proportion of sexually active single females who use birth control methods is
very low (Pillai & Yates 1993). The fact that about 90 percent of AIDS cases
are transmitted through sexual contact (N’Galy & Ryder 1988) has resulted
in growing recognition that sexuality is not only at the core of reproductive
life, but also related to the future of sociodemographic patterns of African