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Kenya

The Nonextended Family

Because of the changing social and economic environment, individual relationships have gained popularity, and marriage has ceased to represent ties between social groups; rather, it is an alliance between individuals. The nonextended family system is now widespread, with the most common form being the monogamous nuclear family found in both urban and rural areas. The other forms of this family type are the composite polygynous, which consists of a man, his wife or wives, and their children (most common in rural areas), and the stem nonextended or single-parent family consisting of one parent and children (common in the urban areas). Most single-parent families consist of the woman as the parent, a trend increasingly emerging among urban and professional women. Many of these women view marriage as an option that is detrimental to their attempts to have careers, professional occupations, and independent lifestyles. Autonomy is first on the agenda as many single mothers choose to have children with married or younger men who will not have absolute influence or authority over them (Kilbride 1994). This suggests a redefinition, based on gender, of roles and practices and a new form of social relationship between family members. Also, the increase in single-parent families in Kenya is attributed to high incidences of teenage pregnancy and premarital and extramarital sex.

According to Andrev Ocholla-Ayayo (1997a; 1997b), a leading anthropologist in the Kenyan study of family systems, the society has devalued traditional sexual mores, and premarital and extramarital sexual relationships are gaining acceptance. With this societal attitude towards sexuality, it is not surprising that mortality as a result of HIV/AIDS is high, and the resulting widowhood is increasingly contributing to the cases of single parenthood. Another emerging pattern is that of child-headed or youth-headed families when children are orphaned when parents die of HIV/AIDS infection (National Council for Population and Development [NCPD] 2000).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsKenya - The Concept Of Marriage And Family, The Extended Family, The Nonextended Family, Polygyny - Conclusion