Friday, August 1, 2008


Author: Emeka Nwosuji

This paper focuses mainly on the Nigeria Society, the problems being encountered by the wife and husband, the impact of foreign culture on family values, the economic impact and the creation of new roles in the family.
Not all marriages fail for the same reason. Nor is there usually one reason for the breakdown of a particular marriage. Nevertheless, we hear some reasons more often than others. They are:
Poor communication, financial problems, a lack of commitment to the marriage, a dramatic change in priorities, Infidelity.
There are other causes we see a lot, but not quite as often as those listed above. They are:
Failed expectations or unmet needs, addictions and substance abuse, Physical, sexual or emotional abuse, Lack of conflict resolution skills and so on.
Marriage has always been influenced and often determined by larger social factors. In turn, the strength of marriage as a social institution reflects the health of a society. Changing attitudes toward gender and sexuality, the growing number of women in the work force, the stresses of occupational life, large-scale shifts in the economy, and the enormous challenges of raising children in a fast-paced, media-centered society in which values are in flux--all these have affected marriage.
But I am convinced that all these causes of disharmony in the Nigerian family could have been curtailed to the barest minimum if it had not embraced globalization all the way.
Globalization has failed the family. It has eroded strong family values and replaced it with commercialized relationships thereby inflicting a heavy blow on the marriage institution world wide. Globalization has something to do with the thesis that we now all live in one community - but in what ways exactly, and is the idea really valid? The world has become a global village. Globalization has not only made the world smaller, it has also made it interdependent. An investment decision made in London can spell unemployment for thousands in Indonesia, while a business decision taken in Tokyo can create thousands of new jobs for workers in north-east England. The dislocation caused by these changes not only affects the family economically, it also affects it morally, socially and psychologically.
We live in a world of transformations, affecting almost every aspect of what we do. For better or worse, we are being propelled into a global order that no one fully understands, but which is making its effects felt upon all of us.
Traditional Nigeria family systems are becoming transformed, or are under strain, as in many parts of the world, particularly as women stake claim to greater equality. There has never before been a society, so far as we know from the historical record, in which women have been even approximately equal to men. This is a truly global revolution in everyday life, whose consequences are being felt around the world in spheres from work to politics.
As in most African cultures, and Nigeria in particular, the corporate group is a key factor in understanding social organizations especially the extended family system. In Nigeria, the extended family kinship is the immediate reference group for individual social identity. Extended family kinships are formed either through blood descent from a common ancestry or through marriage bonds. In certain areas, the ties of the extended family are so strong that one's obligation toward members in an extended family system is as close-knit as that of the nuclear family in the modern west. In the extended family system in Nigeria, the term sister or brother is usually employed in a much broader context than it is commonly understood in the west. It is appropriate within the cultural context to refer to one's cousin as brother or sister, and one's niece or nephew as daughter or son respectively. But what have we now, this noble institution that acts as a check to marital problems have been watered down by globalization. The situation is such that nuclear families as is perceived by the Americans have found their way into the families in Nigeria, thereby creating more problems than solving them.
Towards the end of the last century self-affirmation of the husband both in family and in his profession got more and more complicated. For the man to function successfully, he will have to deal with these two uphill tasks, one in his profession and second in the family.
A famous investigator of culture, ethnographer Margaret Mead, (1988), warned that the role of man in the society as a bread-winner might be lost. She posited that even in the primitive societies, a man’s role from youth had been defined such that providing food for the woman and her posterity is an obligation. “Even in the most primitive societies not many men may avoid to fulfill this obligation and become a vagabond, a misanthrope, living alone in forests.”
Together with the threat of losing a role of a husband and a father, a role of a man as a professional also is being eroded. First of all it deals with increasing of the threat of unemployment and its scale. Experience of losing a job or shifting it accompanied by forced decreasing of ambitions becomes an integral part of the life experience of the growing number of men. (
Nigeria is blessed with abundant human and natural resources, but still 80% of the citizens live under poverty line. The family is under harsh economic strain to survive. This situation is such that the income of the man may not be enough to take care of the entire household. Alternatively the women are forced into the workplace to assist in the economic situation of the family. When this happens, disequilibrium in the family occurs, roles and expectations change. If not properly handled conflicts ensue and the family is affected.
Besides the roles in the family, competition between men and women in the field of professions has become fiercer. This kind of competition penetrates into family as well.
The family is the microcosm of the larger society. Within the family, it is the husband and wife that are expected to play this socialization role. In the traditional Nigerian society, the man is not only seen as the head of the family but also the ‘sole director’ of the affairs taking place in the family. With the advent of Christianity, the position of the wife in the family turned out to be complementary to that of the husband. In contemporary Nigeria, both husband and wife are expected to play the role of raising their children along the line of societal norms.
A woman who tries to combine a career and a family is soon reminded that she's flaunting the socially accepted norms. She finds herself in a seemingly no-win situation. The qualities associated with the role of wife-mother (nurturance, emotionality, responsiveness to people rather than ideas) are seen to be incompatible with those qualities associated with success in the occupational sphere (independence, rationality, and assertiveness).
The man, too, is struggling with his definition of masculine and feminine roles as he has been socialized to understand them. A man grows up expecting to be the head of a household, to be the one who earns the money and has the power. For the most part, men aren't socialized or educated to fill roles calling for skills in child rearing or homemaking. Even if a man has the skills, he may perceive that devoting a great deal of time and emotional energy to domestic activities may negatively affect his career, particularly if he's competing with other men who don't have similar family roles. Ten years ago the barrier was in the workplace with its discriminatory employment and advancement practices; now the bottleneck is in the home, necessitating a redistribution of responsibility for domestic work.
Furthermore, due to the harsh economic climate in the country, many women are likely to need to balance work and family at some point in their career. Finding an employer who recognizes the importance of such a balance and who is ready to offer the same can make a crucial difference in managing a successful career and family.
Most corporate organizations in Nigeria today like the banks, telecommunication giants, oil and manufacturing companies, employ young women to market their products. They put these young ladies under undue pressure to deliver their products. These corporate organizations have long working hours, thereby inflicting more strain on the family units. There is hardly any female friendly organization in Nigeria and this also accounts for the disequilibrium in the family. Today wives rarely get back home before 8 to 10p.m daily, in pursuit of their professions and careers leaving the children at the mercy of nannies. If the children are not properly trained and brought up in a stable environment, in the company of both parents, what kind of leaders are we expecting in the nearest future? The children will definitely not be properly socialized.
According Otite and Ogionwo 1985, significant differences can easily be seen among human beings in every society. Some of these differences are biological variations. Some people are taller than others, some are cleverer, some are older, and some are males while some are females. In addition to these inherited differences, people in society are differentiated by many acquired social differences: for example, people differ from one another in their interests, in their attitudes and beliefs, in their habits, educational achievements and skills. It is based on the above roles both inherited and socially acquired that people are categorized. Thus males, who are married, occupy the position of husband and all married females, the position of wife.
Consequently all adult females who are married and have children occupy the position of mother and are subject to certain broad expectations for their behaviour. This also applies to adult males who have children that occupy the position of father. Role behaviours are clearly defined, shared and recognized by all members of the society. This means that every role category or position in a system has certain expectations associated with it.
Within the same family there are multiplicities of roles for any individual to take on. The husband in the traditional Nigerian society is seen as the bread winner, the person who protects the family against external aggressors, the head of the family and the progenitor of a family. All these roles have their expectations. The husband should have a trade to be able to house, feed and clothe the other members of the family inclusive of the wife. So when we talk of the role of the father, we are referring to both his position in the family system and its attached expectations. When these expectations are not met, the person is seen as deviating from the norm.
It is in line with the above that we now look at the roles husbands and wives are playing in the contemporary Nigerian family. We will start by asking ourselves some pertinent questions. Were there originally social and physiological roles husband and wives play in the family and the society at large? If the answer is yes, what has happened to the roles? Before the implosion in the family, what kept the equilibrium? Why wasn’t there so much instability before now? Why are we all shouting about the malaise?
I must first and foremost recall that in the traditional Nigerian Society, we had very stable and happy homes by all standards. This was realized through apportioning of roles socially and physiologically.
Cultural roles are seen as a matter of course and are mostly stable. In cultural changes new roles can develop and old roles can disappear – these cultural changes are affected by political and social conflicts. For example the feminist movement initiated a change in male and female roles in Western societies. Because we are living in a global community, the same movement is quick to get to the Nigerian family thereby dislocating the roles played by both husband and wife.
Gender roles, as they pertain to the family, are interactive. Being a daughter implies that there is a mother or father. It suggests that being a daughter entails expectations about a female's behavior visà-vis a parent and a parent's behavior vis-à-vis the daughter. A daughter or son reasonably expects physical care and emotional support to a certain age, and parents might expect increasing domestic responsibility and self-direction with their child's physical maturation. Societies usually codify these responsibilities in general terms.
Challenges arising from coping with two careers in one household are evident. The result of trying to juggle two careers may be that each individual is less competitive in terms of his or her own career advancement. Each person has to make compromises for the other's career, and the net result is often that each ends up with a little less. The home environment is a special challenge to the dual-career couple as two people try to meet the demands of careers and build a family life together. Maintaining a home and a family can tax even the most committed and energetic marriage partners.
It appears that most couples try to share the load. The standards are voluntarily lowered; some tasks may be eliminated or redistributed to domestic help, children, or spouses. Even so, the fact remains that in the majority of dual-career families, the responsibility for the domestic sphere lies with the wife. Even highly educated professional women retain that responsibility.
It is a truism that the Nigerian society is witnessing a high level of moral decay. Blames have been laid at the doorstep of bad governance & bad examples exhibited by the adult members of the society. In recent times, there is an implosion in the number of youths & adolescents exhibiting anti-social & immoral behaviours. Owing to the fact that the society is not an invisible compact, effort at redeeming the situation should be located at the micro levels of the society, which is the family.
It is our sincere belief that when husband & wife, at the family level, train their children well, the Nigerian society will begin to witness an exhibition of those good traits acquired at the family level. But this will only be attained if the husband and wife are living together happily as man and wife.
When the general attitudes of the youths reflect the ideals of good society, the few that fail to move along this line would be seen as deviants. As such, the deviants will be fewer in number when husbands & wives have lived up to their expectations.
The contention here is that in order to handle the problems that are presently crippling the contemporary Nigerian society, there is every need for us to look inwards at the family level & within the present order; husband & wife are expected to share equal roles in re-creating a better environment in Nigeria and Africa by extension. It is what they achieve at this level that would, in the final analysis, determine how the society is going to look like.

It is said, and I accept, that more people engaged in premarital sex when the birth control pill became readily available. Likewise simple economic logic tells us that ready availability of abortion increases use of that procedure. Nostalgia alone cannot hold a family in traditional form. We had better assume that the form of family will change in response to economic and technological changes.
Role compatibility is important in a society that permits multiple role sets for wives and husbands, as when a wife expects her role to include employment outside the home and her husband does not. These kinds of incompatibilities produce role conflict, in this case between the female's self-expectations and the male's role prescriptions. Therefore gender roles become an important part of premarital assumptions and anticipations. Such incompatibilities require varied forms of negotiation, and sometimes counseling, to reduce conflict.
Role overload and role conflict are closely related. A frequent international phenomenon of role overload occurs when an employed wife also does a large part of the domestic chores traditionally assigned to her. This produces role strain in that not all tasks can be performed in the time available. Consciously acknowledging this imbalance may lead to arguments and, if the issue is not resolved, to marital breakup if the culture permits it. Communication and a little bit of understanding from the husband may help to resolve the issue and keep the family in one piece.
Work role and other demands outside the family heighten both role strain and conflict. The wife's external employment introduces another set of role demands that increases role strain and conflict through social power adjustments (Standing 1991). Married women's employment outside the home increases stress when they are expected to be primary caregivers to their elderly parents as is expected in our traditional Nigerian extended families.
When a female enters the marketplace, as is increasingly common, she derives status benefits from her direct contribution to the family income. However, careful research of past and present cultures indicates that actual family bargaining power is often hidden, though persisting along gender lines. With the wife's greater economic independence, she is more likely to sever the relationship if conflict is unresolved. Dual-earner families may gain greater independence from their employers because dual incomes permit more employment choices. For example, the husband may elect to spend more time in domestic duties while the wife pursues her career goals.
The feminist movement influences gender role change both in and outside the family in multiple ways. Broadly speaking, the movement may be viewed as a social process focusing on female role identities and prescriptions. Its basic premise is that gender ascriptions produce power inequities in family systems where the male is the primary paid earner and the female is confined to domestic duties. Domestic work is viewed as important but is not well rewarded in money or status. Feminism identifies inequities and suggests strategies for their modification. Education examines gender role inequities and challenges traditional gender roles (consciousness raising), providing females with greater control over their reproductive functions.
But today in Nigeria there are more women in the work places than men. The traditional jobs earmarked for men like the banks, teaching, lecturing, public service have been overtaken by the women. The current school enrolment statistics show that there are more females in school than their male counterparts. In fact the women are gradually taking over all the known professions from Medicine to Law except Politics and trading.

In a given society a norm regarding the meaning of a marriage contract comes to be accepted. Or perhaps a handful of optional norms come to be known. The complexity of the family as an institution should not be left to the whims of government as if it were an economic activity. The culture of the people should be allowed to guide it. Most times external influences destabilize the accepted norms in the society. Where a practice in marriage is unhealthy, the superiority of the new culture need not be overemphasized.
In traditional Nigerian society, family members eat their meals together. It costs less labor to prepare one big meal at one time than several little meals at various times. However, as the technology of serving food has advanced, and the cost has decreased, individuals can more readily eat on their own schedules in response to their own appetites. Consequently the number of times when the family all sits down together for a meal has decreased. The family meal is now a ceremony of nostalgia more than a necessity. All these binding features in family values should be reignited in the families and sustained, non governmental organizations should channel all advertisements towards that, rather than dissipate our energies in advertorials of AIDS.
It will be good to do a complete reorientation for our youths, advising them on the ills of globalization as it affects the stability of the family values. You read through the internet, it is awash with same sex marriages which is very alien to our culture, but which is fast encroaching into our youths psyche. Single parenthood which used to be a taboo in our tradition has come to be accepted because of the various rights groups springing up from various sources.
We really need to stand up to some of these foreign cultures that are been rammed down our throats by westerners who have lost all it takes to be happy in a union man and woman.
The rich culture of the Nigerian personality is fast eroding and would soon be seen only on the pages of history books if we do not make haste while the sun is still shining. One is not advocating for the complete abdication of the western civilization as it pertains to marriages and family values. But of essence is the preservation of the values that accounts for the stability of the family in the traditional society. Once more I will emphasize that we are adopting the wrong values from our western brothers and dropping the values which should be sold to other cultures to make this our world a better place.
The National Assembly should be approached to create an enabling law for these large corporations making them more female friendly. This may take the form of longer maternity leave, early closure from workplace, and the removal of high and unachievable targets in marketing products for married women.
If we adhered to these recommendations, stability in the families will be achieved. This will then have a multiplier effect on the society since the family is the microcosm of the society. It will not only make the country safer in future it will breed a vibrant and confident youth that will be properly socialized in stable family with full cultural values and orientation.

Ashford, L. S. (2001). "New Population Policies: Advancing Women's Health and Rights." Population Bulletin 56:3–43.
Cassidy, M., and Lee, G. (1989). "The Study of Polyandry." Journal of Comparative Family Studies 20:1–11.
Chun, Y.-J., and MacDermid, S. M. (1997). "Perceptions of Family Differentiation, Individuation, and Self-Esteem among Korean Adolescents." Journal of Marriage and the Family 59:451–462.
Coontz, S. (1992). The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap. New York: Basic Books. Fox, R. (1967). Kinship and Marriage. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.
DoDoo, F. N. (1998). "Marriage Type and Reproductive Decisions: A Comparative Study in Sub-Saharan Africa." Journal of Marriage and the Family 60:232–242.
Farmer, Y. (1992). "Role Models." In Encyclopedia of Sociology, Vol. 3, ed. E. Borgatta and M. Borgatta. New York: Macmillan.
Gohm, C. L.; Oishi, S.; and Diener, E. (1998). "Culture, Parental Conflict, Parental Marital Status, and the Subjective Well-Being of Young Adults." Journal of Marriage and Family 60:319–334.
F. Hall and D. Hall. 1979The Two-Career Couple (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company,).
Margaret Mead.( 1988), Culture and childhood, Moscow, , (p.312).
McDonald, P. (2000). "Gender Equity and Theories of Fertility Transition." Population and Development Review 26:427–439.
R. Rapoport and R. N. Rapoport, 1976 Dual-Career Families Re-Examined (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers,).
Ruether, R. R. (2000). Christianity and the Making of the Modern Family. Boston: Beacon Press.
Standing, H. (1991). Dependence and Autonomy: Women's Employment and the Family in Calcutta. London: Routledge.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home