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Ghana

Marriage, Family Formation, And Childbearing

Studies of African societies generally indicate that within the whole subregion, men and women are expected to marry. As a result, some researchers indicate that in Africa, marriage is nearly universal. Married life is important to many Africans, including Ghanaians, because it is the basis for assigning reproductive, economic, and noneconomic roles to individuals. Voluntary celibacy is quite rare in traditional African societies. The pro-family and marriage ideology that exists in Ghana also has implications for social relations. Among the various ethnic and linguistic groups, unmarried women are often viewed differently from the married (Takyi and Oheneba-Sakyi 1994). This may explain why by age twenty, a significant proportion of women in Ghana are married (Cohen 1998; GSS, 1999).

Marriage is nearly universal in Ghana, and couples are expected to have children. The family is the basis of social organization, the main source of security in old age and the primary caretaker of the young. CAROLINE PENN/CORBIS

As shown in Table 1, the proportion of women who have never been married (single) in Ghana ranged from a high of 24 percent in 1998 to a low of 17 percent in 1971. Although a higher proportion of Ghanaians marry, numbers also suggest a new development, changing family processes in the country. For example, since the 1970s, the proportion of women currently married has declined from 72 percent in 1971 to 52 percent by 1998. Accompanying the decline in the number of married people has been a corresponding increase in alternative or nontraditional family forms, especially consensual unions, and single status. Similarly, the proportion of women reporting a divorce or separation is also on the rise, a trend some researchers attribute to the disruptive effects of modernization and Westernization (Amoateng and Heaton 1989; Boateng 1995). Similarly, it has been reported that women headed about 29 percent of all households in Ghana during the mid-1980s (Bruce, Lloyd, and Leonard 1995).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsGhana - Family Structure, Family Formation, And Family Life, Marriage, Family Formation, And Childbearing