The family structure in Kenya is going through major changes. The current structure consists of various components. From how the family is organized, to how it is run, to who are the members and their individual or collective functions, to the hierarchy of family members.
I recently was listening to a local radio station that was discussing an article in the daily Standard Newspaper about how married men are getting children with married women. I thought to myself it must be so common for it to be reported in a popular daily.
The radio station was reporting that many Kenyans are opting to get children outside of their marriages in order to preserve their society. When I shared this story with a friend she informed me that it was the practice in Kikuyu community. The Kikuyu community allowed one to have at least one child with another partner (both male and female) just in case the children from their marriage were either cursed, abnormal or daft. I know the same applies to the Masai of old.
Family structure in Kenya
The family structure of my great grandfather was four wives and seventeen Children. The Church was just finding its way into Kikuyu culture then and so customary practice is what was predominant. In other words Kikuyu customary Law allowed more than one wife. Then came in Christianity and my grandfather (son to my great grandfather) embraced it and he had one wife and 8 children.
In the traditional African cultures, there was no formal school and children were taught about their cultures at home and there was clear division of labor between the adults and children. Everyone knew their role. The head of the family was obviously the man and no one would challenge his authority.
Bottom line the family structure is determined by the cultural practices of the people.
Current Family structure
Today the family structure has changed. Whilst my parents would get a minimum of 4 children, today most urban monogamous households in Kenya have 2 to 3 Children.
Most Kenyans have embraced Christianity as a religion and so are monogamous, however, due to cultural inclinations you will find many African men have a second wife not known by most family members and she only comes out when he dies due to succession issues.
Single Parenting was not known in the old Family structure of Kenya but now it is the norm. In the olden days single parenting was due to death of a partner however, today it is by choice. It has become such a common trend that we are even now starting to hear of single fathers. It is trendy in Kenya to be a single parent.
A Home with an only child in the old family structure was regarded as a curse. Therefore no one would dare. Even today you will hear most Kenyans saying it is not good to have one child in case…………. They forget you can have four or more and the in case happens to them all at once. Recently, it has been reported of two fathers in different parts of Kenya, who have massacred their four children in one go. Tragedy is no respecter of persons.
My point though is that homes where there is an only child are on the increase in Kenya which is another sign that the family structure in Kenya is changing. This is especially among women who know from the outset they do not want to get married or they cannot get a marriage partner and so get tired of waiting and decide to have a child.
There are more divorce cases in Kenya than ever before. Whilst in the early 70′s there were hardly 10 reported divorce cases in Kenya, today they are in their thousands. Why? because our culture has changed. People are less tolerable of each other.
SO as the people change due to the global changes that we experience, our personal and collective cultures change and the family structure cannot be ignored or not be affected. Sometimes positively but more often times in ways that we had not anticipated.
What is Causing the Family Structure to Change?
Why are all this changes happening? Humans are changing. Society is dynamic. Always changing and it changes how we relate to each other, we change how we educate our children. As society changes the family structure cannot be left behind, it cannot remain unscathed.
In the radio program , one young man (23 years old) who called in the show and he said how perturbed he was because of the kind of things he was hearing on radio. He said as a young person he was being discouraged from getting married if that is the kind of stuff happening. He said he was worried about the future of Kenya if we have become a society that gets children with other partners other than our own. Obviously the young man was a good Christian and discussion was taking a turn that was against his belief system.
What I do not understand, is how such a young person cannot understand that the world we are living in is different from the one our ancestors lived in and so we cannot afford to have the family structures of old.
Today, my teenage daughter has a cell phone with internet access on it. She has access to information galore. When I was a teenager, I only knew what my parents wanted me to know and what the school books taught me. If we are accepting the technological change, how comes we are not accepting the changes in our families that it brings.
What Can We Do About Changing Times?
Please be advised that as the world changes so has the family structure in Kenya too. Of course each individual determines how their family affairs are run because we set up our own standards. However, collectively locally and globally you will note a trend of change in family structure and it will be one that is different from what we have ever known. It will definitely be Unchristian.
Just to push you into the future – it might be that Polygamy will now be acceptable even in Christian circles, it will be acceptable to have gay families and marriages between older women and younger men will become more common as illustrated in my article older women younger men relationships in Kenya.
As we change so do our family structures and there is nothing you can do about that. The best you can do is preparing yourself in advance and decide my family will be like this or like that no matter what the rest of the world is saying or doing.
If you want to change anything in life you change your thinking. When you change your thinking the things happening around you start to change, you start to make different choices and you start to experience different outcomes.
So if the world’s collective thinking has changed in relation to family structures, you should be thinking of how best to maintain your own standards and how to Parent so that your Children can maintain a balanced family life in the midst of modern family confusion.
Though it may be difficult as you will be fighting against the tide, all things are possible to them that believeth.