A recent study in the United States showed that in 2012, a child living in a single female-headed family was four times more likely to be poor than a child living in a married-couple family. In 2012, among all children living in single female-headed families, 47.2 % were poor. In contrast, among children living in married-couple families, 11.1% were poor. This statistic is sobering when one considers that almost 70% of black children born in the United States are born to single parents. This means 70% of black children have a higher probability of living in poverty simply because of the family they are brought into. Traditionally, the family was comprised of a man a woman and their children.
However, institutions and systems like slavery produced matriarchal black homes as black men were separated from their families and sold off to other plantations. Another result of slavery was working long hours which meant that fathers who were present were still absent from instilling values into their children as they hardly spent any time together. The early 1900s great migration further dislocated the African-American family as fathers moved north in search of work in the urban areas. Some eventually brought their families from the south up to north but in other cases women who were left in the south ran their families affairs in the absence of the father.
The 1960s sexual revolution also brought with it the idea of free love and that people could basically cast off all restraints and reject the societal norms of abstinence and one man, one wife. This resulted in young people experimenting in sex outside marriage and consequently an increase in unwanted pregnancy and single family homes. During this period, more mother worked outside the home and the increased saturation of television in the home also meant that children were influenced by the morals of Hollywood which highlights sex, drugs and the pursuit of pleasure. Some also argue that the civil rights era and welfare programs led to the degradation of the family and the community because the government began to fulfill the role that was once held by the church and community. All of a sudden people did not need each other but could rely on welfare and other government programs.
The reality is the scarcity of jobs in the urban areas also led to the degradation of the family in the African diaspora. When men could no longer provide for their families they left and the number of single families began to increase. Today the levels of fatherless homes in black America is alarming. The answer to fatherlessness is not mentors for children as liberalism teaches but the solution is fathers and building healthy families within communities.
In sub-Saharan Africa for example, the issue of families can be more complicated. Often children can be raised in a family with both father and mother. However, the issue of polygamy is more prevalent and destructive. It is no secret that one of the main reasons Africans cannot build and sustain generational wealth is because of the practice of polygamy. Polygamy has destroyed millions of lives and the jealousy and infighting have led to the dismantling of wealth. All the businesses I knew growing up in are all but dead, with the death of their founders. It was common practice for a business man to many several wives and then go broke and lose all the wealth that they had worked for.
Polygamy has not profited many African families, it often leads to more poverty, disease and broken families. What good is coming out of polygamy in 2016, besides temporary satisfaction of a man’s lusts and ego? Most men in Africa certainly do not make enough to feed, clothe and shelter their first family, what more when they take a second family? When a man takes another woman as a wife and has another family he will be further splitting the little wealth he would have acquired up to that point.
Cultural values set standards regarding immoral or moral behavior acceptable or non-acceptable behavior. High moral standards are for the benefit and the survival of any society. It is imperative that we also learn a few things and adopt some norms from other cultures that are beneficial. In the United States for example, Asian and Jewish families generally earn more, own more businesses and pass on more wealth to their children. These groups have been able to build wealth and challenge Euro-American dominance because of some of their culture values regarding family and education. One person described the philosophy of these successful groups as:
- Uncompromising towards having two parent households of a father and mother
- Uncompromising about obtaining the highest level of education
- Uncompromising about starting and running their own family businesses
To date, no nation in recorded history has ever succeeded with alternative family structures therefore we should think twice about raising our children in single parent households and alternative.
By Samantha Dhlamini