Poverty's Baggage

Causes And Consequences Of Family Instability


The study is aimed at investigating the causes and consequences of family instability in Umuowa community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo sate. The increase in family instability in the society has been worrisome among social scientists. A good study of this work will help in reducing the family instability in our contemporary society. A good research design was used in gathering data from the field. The researcher’s sample population was 120 respondents.

These were selected by the researcher from four different sub-sections in Umuowa community, which were based on their occupational status; these included 30 traders, 30 civil servants, 30 farmers and 30 professionals of both married men and women. Questionnaires were administered to them by the researcher and two hypotheses were formulated and tested by the use of chi-square method. The study shows that family instability always occurs when there is mostly misunderstanding in the values and when the spouses do not perform their duties to the family adequately.

There are lots of institutions that make up the social system, but one that seems outstanding is the family, because of some vital functions, which it performs in the society. The family can be described as the basic unit, since it embraces all forms of interaction between individuals. Apart from the importance of the family to the members of the society, it serves as a semi-originator or controller of the existing institution in the social system, because without people who make up the society, there will be no existing social institution. The family provides the individual with an identity, with a social status and with economic well-being. The other institutions have only slowly emerged from the family and have for a long time been dependent on the family.

The family is universally regarded as the most sacred of the institutions and it is held so in the society. Similarly, Murdock (1949) postulated that such an institution is universally and functionally necessary because it performs those primary functions fundamental to human and social life. Without the sexual and reproductive functions of the family, society cannot continue to exist, and without the economic function, it will not be sustained and the lack of education will hinder the transfer of culture. Family instability has become a thing associated with the contemporary family institution. This however, is not to say that it had never once occurred in family situation of the past but that the rate at which it occurs in our present society is quite alarming. Little (1973), posits that the rate of divorce in town depends on economic situation. He noted that in Ibadan, rich traders entice people’s wives with their money. This is common in our contemporary family institution than before.

The problem of family instability can be traced to the rapid growth rate of urbanization and industrialization in Nigeria. The economy is growing and it requires a lot of manpower (both skilled and unskilled). This has aroused every member of the family to become one way or the other involved in the economic growth of the nation. The involvement of women in wage carrying is a threat in the family solidarity; couples hardly find time to stay together for interaction purposes. Child care which should be the responsibility of the parents is now shifted to the school and house helps. There are also some social factors that affect the instability of the family. The idea of managing more than one wife might lead to an end of the family. The habits that either the wife or the husband is involved in extra marital affairs which is perpetuated by some men and some women might lead to an end of the family. The habits that either the wife or the husband is addicted to smoking or drinking also lead to family dissolution. Lack of trust in many families amongst the couples is wrecking marriages today.

Peer influences also threatens the family solidarity if care is not taken by couples. As a result of outside influences, irrational decisions are made to the detriment of one’s wish and this might lead to a marital crisis. Other factors such as education, illegitimate children, religion and infertility of the wife also initiate instability in the family. Children of separated parents often bears the consequences of family instability. They always serve as the “scape goat” to the vices of either the mother or the father. The tension and hostility of unsolved conflict between parents often gets back to the child. There are so many boys and girls and even adults roaming about the streets, many are delinquents, vandals and touts while some are mutually disturbed because of family instability.

Though a lot of people are still contracting marriages in Umuowa but there exist a lot of single parents which is a product of family instability. The problem of family instability is compounding due to lack of support from local government authorities for both marriages and children form dissolved homes.

Family instability is said to be a social problem because it affects a significant number of people especially in modern times. The motivation for this study, stems from the ways and manner in which family instability has threatened the existence of the social structure as a whole. So many people see family instability as a villain at the root of our social problem, especially juvenile delinquency which eventually lead to criminal acts. The institution of marriage is virtually universal in human societies. These institutions contribute immensely in holding people together to cooperate with each other and with other relations in the maintenance of household. The family is supposed to produce children and security to maintain procreation.

Ideally, marriage is meant to be permanent but we know that marriage in societies including Nigeria is becoming increasingly fragile and unstable. This research work is concerned with the mounting rate of family instability and its consequences.The causes of family instability depends on the type of family each spouse is born into, in this case negative family pressures might quicken the breakdown of the family. The ethnic barrier might also make the parents call for an end to the relationship of the family. It should be understood that these factors are common in Nigeria because of its multi-ethic composition. Since we have different ethnic groups, people from Eastern region found it difficult to propose marriage to people from Northern Nigeria or West. This kind of marriage when proposed could be terminated by both parents because of distance, differences in language and dressing code.

Another cause of family instability is interference of extended family. Stole (1957), said that marriage is an exclusive association of two people, and that if the men and women who marry do not disengage themselves from their parents, they will invariably fall into divorce. Low income places strain on marriage especially on the husband, failure to live up to expected role lead to family instability. A husband who cannot provide for the need of the family (financial responsibility) might make his wife to engage in a promiscuous act.

The aim of marriage is procreation and without it, marriage is incomplete. Therefore childless marriage are bound to experience conflict and family instability. Any marriage without child lead to family instability. Click (1979), stated that the age of marriage is an important factor when considering marriage instability. He believed that people who get married in early age are emotionally immature and not in position to assume the responsibilities of the family. The consequences of family instabilityaccording to Goods (1964), is that the absence of one parent makes it impossible for a single parent to be an adequate role model, therefore a child who is not given parental love, guidance and personal attention often develop problems that hinder the child’s growth.

Children from broken homes develop bitterness and hatred among themselves because of the foundation, which were laid by their parents. This may lead them to indulge in prostitution, armed robbery e.t.c. May (1975), said that many delinquent acts, could be traced to broken homes. He said that many types of deviant behaviour are linked to disruption of good moral upbringing of the parents. Divorce could inflict frustration on children and render them useless in life. The result of this factor leads to children becoming nuisance to the society if action is not taken to integrate them into the family.

By, Igbaji Chinwendu (Agency Report)


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