The Family- South Africa


Our African forefathers had a very different idea – and we can learn a lot from them. The African cultures embrace their relations and treat the extended family as their own. A family is the greater unit of relations. They live together, granny looks after the children when mommy is out working. The kids running around in the village fields playing together and after supper the grandfather sits around the fire telling stories to the children

Black families are traditionally extended, with a dominant father at the head. Large changes in urban families have taken place primarily as a result of urbanization, housing problems, political factors (the migratory labor system), and economic underdevelopment coupled with poverty. However, nuclear families have formed within the high socioeconomic group. The high incidence of outof-wedlock births has resulted in the replacement of the nuclear family with other structures. In many cases the daughter and child live with the mother, which means that many multigenerational families exist (Steyn 1993).

Economic development in the areas of mining, harbors, and industrial growth resulted in the migrant labor system. This meant that the workers (men) moved to other areas alone to work there to earn an income. A portion of the money was then sent to the family in the rural area. In the course of time, family members were allowed to live together near the workplace under certain conditions. However, traditional family structures could not continue in this industrial environment. Differences between families in urban and rural areas can be ascribed to the effect of industrialization, urbanization, and the migrant labor system (Nzimande 1996).

General extended family patterns are vertical (multigenerational) or horizontal (when brothers with their families live with the oldest brother). A further dimension, also known as

composite families,

occurs when the husband has more than one wife, and they all live together (with their children).

Although the nuclear family functions more independently, its members usually do not totally break ties with the family of origin or other important family members. During problems and in times of crises, members of the extended family are still expected to help and support one another. In many nuclear families a niece, nephew, aunt, or uncle is also present because he or she needs support.

The family plays a vital role in the life of a South African

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