The changing nature of adolescence in the Kssena-Nankana District of Northern Ghana

Stud Fam Plann. June 1999 30(2)95–111, June 1999

The changing nature of adolescence in the Kssena-Nankana District of Northern Ghana

Mensch BS, Bagah D, Clark WH, Binka F


This study reports the results of a primarily qualitative investigation of adolescent reproductive behavior in the Kassena-Nankana District, an isolated rural area in northern Ghana, where traditional patterns of marriage, family formation, and social organization persist. The study is based on in-depth interviews and focus-group discussions with adolescents, parents, chiefs, traditional leaders, youth leaders, and health workers, supplemented by quantitative data from the 1996 wave of a panel survey of women of reproductive age conducted by the Navrongo Health Research Centre. The social environment that adolescent boys and girls in the Kassena-Nankana District encounter and its links to reproductive behavior are described. The principal question is whether even in this remote rural area, the social environment has been altered in ways that have undermined traditional sexual and reproductive patterns. The survey data indicate a considerable increase in girls’ education and the beginning of a decline in the incidence of early marriage. The qualitative data suggest that social institutions, systems, and practices such as female circumcision that previously structured the lives ofadokscent boys and girls have eroded, leading to an apparent increase in premarital sexual activity.