Cover Image
close this bookThe Family and Family Size (FAO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAims/objectives
View the documentBasic concepts
View the documentActivity no. 1 - What do you think of that?
View the documentActivity no. 2 - What would you decide in this situation?
View the documentActivity no. 3 - Small family/large family
View the documentActivity no. 4 - Learning from an expert

Activity no. 2 - What would you decide in this situation?

An activity designed to stimulate discussion of alternative choices.

What would you decide in this situation?



Note: As you will see, there are fewer pictures of alternatives given for the second and third situations than for the first This does not mean, however, that there are any less alternatives. The idea is that as the activity goes on, the group members will be able to identify the alternatives themselves, without having to see pictures of them. Group members should come up with at least six alternatives for each situation. Because, of course, in life we have to work out the alternatives for ourselves.

· The group leader explains to the participants that the activity concerns looking at choices and alternatives.

· On the following pages are drawings illustrating a situation requiring a decision (the big drawing) and a series of alternatives (the smaller drawings).

· The group leader describes the situation and then the alternatives, showing the illustrations to the group members as he speaks.

· The participants then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.

· Each group member, in turn, says what his or her choice would have been and why.

· The process is repeated with each of the three situations.


So that the group members are able to:

· Recognize that when they are faced with a decision, there are usually several possible alternatives, all of which should be considered carefully.

· See that they have the ability to consider alternatives and make decisions.

· Practice considering alternatives and making decisions.



· The stories and alternatives on pages 23-32.

· The background information on pages 17-22.

· Active group participation.

Some background information for the group leader

Why is it important for young people to develop decision-making skills?

When we are young, we have few responsibilities and most of the decisions that affect our lives are made by others, for example, our parents, relatives, teachers, etc.

However, as we grow older, one of the major steps in growing up is learning how to take responsibility for our own actions and make our own decisions. Just as it is inappropriate for very young children to make major decisions for themselves, it is also inappropriate for young adults to allow others to make their decisions for them. Of course, young people may wish to consult people who have more experience and expertise when preparing to make important decisions. But the basic decision should be their own.

What are some of the things to consider for good decision making?

Timing. Decisions should be made well in advance of the time when action must be taken.

What are the alternatives. Before making a decision, all the possibilities should be considered.

Getting good information. Part of decision making is getting good information. This means talking to people who know more than we do.

Putting the decision into action. Once a decision is made, it is necessary to act on it. Otherwise, things just stay the way they were.

Evaluating the effects of the decision. When a decision has been made and action taken, you should look closely at the results to see if you have achieved what you set out to do. This will let you continue to make decisions and improve even more.

How do people decide how many children to have

Traditionally, people in Africa have wanted to have large families for many sensible reasons.

The first reason is that people did not live as long as they do today. This is called low life expectancy. Because of this, it was important for a woman to have children as early as possible.

The second reason is that many babies died while they were still infants, making it important to have many children so that at least some would survive to become adults. This is called high infant mortality. In some Muslim societies, this is one of the reasons why the naming ceremony does not take place until the baby is 40 days old (although the baby is usually actually named immediately today)

The third reason is because in the past there was very little cost involved in children - there were no formal schooling costs, no hospital and medical expenses and so on. More children just meant more land could be cultivated and work could be shared by more people. Today though, many of these reasons are no longer true.

Modern medicine has meant that people live longer and that fewer babies die. Also there is now competition for land and it is not always possible to simply cultivate more land to feed more people.

So decisions about the number of children in a family today need to be based on a careful analysis of the possibilities for the family and the standard of living they wish to achieve. There is no standard family size that is best for everyone and there can be many good things about growing up in a large family - but what about the opportunities for the children when they become adults? For most families in Africa, a smaller number of children is more likely to result in a better standard of living and better opportunities than a larger number of children.

Decisions about when to have children are very important. Often, people have children immediately after they are married. In fact, many young women get married because they are already pregnant. Young couples may be anxious to have children, but by having children immediately, the husband and wife may give themselves heavy responsibilities before they are ready to meet them. Children born to mothers who are very young (under 18) or over 35 are much more likely to be sickly or to die in childhood. Teenage mothers are also much more at risk of dying in childbirth.

Spacing the birth of children is another way to help ensure healthy happy families. If children are born one after another, the mother has no time to recover her strength between pregnancies. This can result in a household affected by sickness and disease, in which children grow up without the attention and affection they need. By spacing her children, the mother can have more time for herself, her family or to work outside the household, for example, in an agricultural cooperative.

Children playing on the floor

Who decides how many children a family should have and when?

Who decides how many children a family should have and when?

The decision as to how many children to have and when to have them should be discussed and shared by the husband and wife together. Their primary goal should be to ensure that they will be able to meet the basic needs - food, health, affection, education housing - of all of their family.

Decisions about family size should not be made on the spur of the moment or be based on emotional reactions. They should be carefully considered over time because they will affect their entire lives.

It is important that young people make these decisions for themselves, based on careful thinking and good information. Of course, they may wish to discuss important decisions with their relatives, other members of the community, or social workers, but they should make their own decisions.

Situation No. 1

James and Theresa are in love with each other. He is studying at the regional training institute and she is in her second year of secondary school. They are trying to decide whether to get married...

James and Theresa


They decide to get married right away and continue their studies later.

They agree to wait until Theresa has completed her schooling before getting married.

The can't make decision and decide to split up.

They decide to wait until James has completed his training and found a good job.

They decide to buy tickets for the national lottery to win enough money to marry and live well.

They decide to keep on seeing each other, and if Theresa gets pregnant to get married.

Situation No. 2

Richard and Ana

Richard and Anna are newlyweds. They have a small house of their own and have been allocated a plot of land by the chief. At the wedding Richard's mother was very happy and said, "It won't be long now until I have a grandchild," but Richard and Anna are thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to wait to have their first child.


Even though they think it would be better if no children came for a year or two, they leave the decision to fate - whenever a child comes that will be OK.

They decide to delay the birth of a child and use traditional birth control methods, but to their surprise Anna becomes pregnant after six months.

Richard decides to please his mother and show his friends that he's a "real man."

After deciding to wait until they are economically and emotionally ready to have a child, they visit the family planning clinic for advice.

Situation No. 3

Joseph and Maggie

Joseph and Maggie are a young couple. They have been married for two and one-half years and have two baby girls. They love their children and would like to have another (they would like a boy) but things are not going very well economically for them right now. They are trying to decide whether to have another baby.


They decide that it is worth the risk of having another child in the hope that it will be a boy.

They decide not to worry about it because "three can live as cheaply as two."

They decide it would be better to wait before having another child and go to the family planning clinic for more information and help.

They decide to have the baby anyway and if they cannot care for it they will get a relative to raise the child.