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South Africa

The Incidence Of Distinguishable Family Structures

In a comprehensive study involving 1,746 white, 2,024 colored, 2,411 Asian, and 1,199 black families, it became evident that the pure nuclear family is still the most prevalent, although masked differential proportions exist between the groups (Steyn 1993), with the smallest proportion of nuclear families occurring among black people. Although the nuclear structure is the most common among both black and colored people, they make up less than half of the total. Multigenerational families, with either a man (coloreds 11.6% and blacks 16. 2%) or a woman (coloreds 8.2% and blacks 12.6%) as head of the family occur most commonly in these two population groups. For Asians and whites, the incidence of multigenerational families with either a man or a woman as head is 12 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively. The incidence of single-parent families, primarily with the woman as parent, is as follows: coloreds 15 percent, blacks 14.8 percent, Asians 7.7 percent, and whites 6.2 percent. Steyn (1993) concludes that the nuclear family is the predominant family form for whites, while single-parent and multigenerational families are also legitimate family units for both the colored and black communities. For Asians, only the multi-generational family structure (after the nuclear family) has a relatively high incidence.

Another family type that exists is where other relatives live with a family. This occurs mostly among black families (21.3%), followed by Asians (20%), coloreds (18.3%), and whites (6%). The incidence of reconstituted families (man or woman marries for the second time) is as follows: whites 13 percent, blacks 6.1 percent, coloreds 6 percent, and Asians 2.3 percent.

Sean Jones (1991) provides a good description of how the movement of family members between urban and rural areas occurs in families of migrant black workers. This gives families a movable characteristic, with support resources dependent on locality and the nature of the crisis. Research done by Fiona Ross (1995) confirms Jones's description of mobility between areas (rural to cities and vice versa). However, Ross also provides a description of the mobility of family members from colored families within settlements (rural). Support for family members comes from friends, neighbors, and even a fictitious family—the people in the immediate environment who help from time to time in order for the family members to survive. This fluidity questions the existence of the conventional family for these people.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsSouth Africa - Family Life In Black Communities, Family Life In Asian Communities, Family Life In Colored Families