Single Parenthood In Africa

by Duke Magazine

Parenting is the process of raising and educating a child from birth or before until adulthood (Self Growth, 2012). Synonymously, parenting refers to carrying out the responsibilities of raising and relating to children in such a manner that the child is well prepared to realize his or her full potential as a human being. This implies that parenting is the process of taking care or supporting a child from birth to adulthood involving the physical, emotional, social and intellectual capabilities. It can simply mean the process or state of being a parent. In fact one can be a parent both to the biological or non-biological children.
Parenting requires interpersonal skills and makes emotional demands (Santrock, 2006). According to Santrock, most parents learn parenting practices from their own parents; some they accept and some they discard.

In the African system, parenting is again perceived to take a lot of forms which is able to lead the child to assume a responsible adulthood. Though there are various parenting styles, there are ways in which the African parent brings up a child in order for the child to imbibe the cultural values of the land and also be a responsible adult. Some of these forms of parenting are through story telling (folktales), the extended family, traditional rites and the mother’s care, attention and love. One may ask; are these cultural practices still in vogue? 

An increase in single parenting, especially among women, has become a global concern as existing evidence continues to show that single motherhood is associated with higher risks of poverty, reproduction of poverty and other negative outcomes that affect the well-being of single mothers and their children. In many African societies, motherhood defines womanhood. Motherhood, then, is crucial to woman’s status in African society. To marry and mother a child (a son preferably), entitles a woman to more respect from her husband’s kinsmen for she can now be addressed as ‘mother of… 

Using pooled data obtained from the Demographic and Health Surveys in Africa, this study examined single parenthood in Africa, with a specific focus on its prevalence, determinants and consequences. The results show that over 22% of women aged 20–49 years in Africa were unmarried mothers. 

Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing steady growth in out-of-wedlock motherhood, marital instability, and widowhood exacerbated by wars and HIV/AIDS pandemic, which has resulted in a large number of single mother families in the region. 

The proliferation of single mother families indicates that many children in sub-Saharan Africa are born and reared in single mother families. Studies in other regions, particularly in the West, associated single motherhood with many adverse effects on children’s well-being, including poor nutritional status and lower chances for survival between age 0–59 months. Given the high poverty levels in many sub-Saharan African countries, and gender gap in education and high-wage employment, many children of single mothers are likely to be at risk of malnutrition and under-5 mortality.

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