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Family Structure, Family Formation, And Family Life, Marriage, Family Formation, And Childbearing

With a population of over eighteen million people, Ghana is the second largest country in West Africa. Since the 1960s, Ghana's population has been growing at an annual rate of about 2 to 3 percent (GSS 2000). This increase is a reflection of high birth rates at a time of declining mortality. One consequence of previous decades of high fertility of Ghanaians is that the country's population is quite young, with about 43 percent under fifteen years old (PRB 2000). These patterns of high birth rates, a youthful age structure, and declining mortality (the result of improvements in curative and preventive medicine, advances in sanitation, hygiene, and improved nutrition) indicate momentum for further population growth.

Culturally speaking, the people of modern Ghana comprise more than fifty different ethnic and linguistic groups. The largest of these groups are the Akans, who represent about 50 percent or more of the population and speak a variety of Twirelated dialects. Other major ethnic groups are the Ga-Adangbe, Ewe, and the Mossi-Dagbani. Alhough a variety of local languages are spoken throughout the country, English is the language used for official communication.

Ghana's contact with the outside world began in the late fifteenth century when the Portuguese arrived on the shores of the country. Over the years, the British ultimately became the dominant power in the area now called Ghana (Gold Coast). British colonial rule lasted more than a century until Ghana became politically independent in 1957, making it the first Black African nation to forgo centuries of British domination. At independence, Ghana was consolidated with the former British trust territory of Togoland, which before then was a German protectorate.

The social and political history of Ghana since its independence has been characterized by turmoil. First, the country's economy deteriorated over the years. Second, beginning in 1966 the country came under a succession of military regimes (briefly interrupted by two civilian administrations). As part of a new democratization process, the country reverted to civilian rule in the early 1990s. In January 2001, a newly elected civilian government was sworn in, making Ghana one of the few African nations with a Western-style democratic government. Although reliable data about the religious composition of the country are not readily available, it has been estimated that more than fifty percent of the people identify themselves as Christians (La Verle 1994) with the rest being either Muslims or believers of African traditional religions.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural Aspects