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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. 3 - Small family/large family

Small family/large family

Making a chart as a group activity to promote discussion of factors which influence decisions about family size.



· The group leader sets up a chart with two headings: Factors which contribute to large families and Factors which contribute to small families.

· The group leader puts all of the factors (written on individual slips of paper) into a box or bag.

· Each group member in turn selects one slip of paper, reads the statement (if they cannot read, other group members or the group leader can read the statement) and says whether it should go under the large or small family column and why.

· Other group members agree or disagree.

· The leader writes the statement in the agreed column.

· The activity continues with the other statements and ideas from group members.

· The group then discuss the chart and how it relates to their own community.


So that group members will be able to:

· Identify factors that influence decisions about family size.

· Analyse the advantages and disadvantages of large and small families.

· Understand that a husband and wife can determine the size of the family and that the decision should be carefully considered and not left to chance.

· Develop responsible attitudes towards decision making about family size.



· Some large sheets of paper to make the chart.

· Writing materials.

· The suggested factors given on the next two pages (and any others the group leader may like to add), written onto individual strips of paper (see also the background information on pages 17-22 and 39-44).

· Participation of the group.

Factors leading to a large family size

Many children thought to provide security in old age.

Young age at marriage.

Men think that many children is a sign of their manliness.

Parents continue to have children until they have a son.

Parents get much enjoyment from children.

Women have no say in deciding family size.

Children thought of as cheap labour.

Lack of knowledge about how to control family size.

Lack of access to family planning services.

Sometimes religions teach that it is wrong to control family size.

Factors leading to a small family size

Quality of life for children thought more important than quantity of children.

Boys and girls are equally valued.

Knowledge of how to plan family size.

Later marriage and parenthood.

Religions teach that making good decisions is not going against God's will.

Access to family planning services.

Knowledge that security in old age is more likely from a few healthy well educated children than many poor children

Health of mother and child considered important.

Some background information for the group leader

What are some of the factors which lead to large family size in Africa?

· Social.

Children are expected to provide security for their parents in their old age.

People get much joy from children, especially when the children are young.

Parents who have only daughters may continue to have children in the hope of having at least one son to inherit the family land, business or name. Some women feel that having many children strengthens the security of a marriage. Some men consider having many children a proof of their manliness.

People may believe that having many children gives them a higher social status.

In some societies, women tend to marry and have children when very young, which means the length of time over which they can bear children is longer.

Women often have little say in deciding family size.

· Economic

Children may he viewed as a source of labour or income on the farm, or in the home or business.

Having more children may not be viewed as being expensive.

· Educational

People may not know that there are ways to control family size.

People may not know where to go for information and assistance with regard to family size and child spacing.

People may not realize the expenses of educating a large family.

· Religion

Different religions teach different ideas about families and family size.

Some people may believe that children come from God and the decision of how many children a couple should have should be left to God.

People may believe that nothing can be done to affect the number of children born because that is already decided by fate or by God.

While some of these reasons were valid in the past, in today's world, many no longer apply.

What are some of the factors that can influence people to have smaller families?

· Social

Fathers become aware that what is important is not the quantity of children they have, but the quality of life they are able to provide for each one.

Husbands and wives discuss their feelings about family size and make decisions that are good for both of them.

With fewer children, the mother has more time for herself and can become a more respected person in the community.

Parents understand that times have changed and that today's families do not need to be large because due to better medical facilities babies do not often die, people live longer lives and there is less land, work and facilities available for each person (as explained earlier on pages 17-22).

With fewer children, parents have more time to give attention and affection to each child.

There is more space in the household for each person.

· Economic

Parents recognize that children should not be viewed as sources of labour or income.

Boys and girls are viewed as equally valuable by the parents.

Parents understand that children are dependent on them for many years before they can begin to make a contribution to household income.

The parents do not have to work so hard to provide for the children. ildren.

· Educational

Parents recognize that children require an adequate education in order to find a good job. Smaller family size gives the mother more chance to take up opportunities for work and education. Parents are aware of the availability of effective, safe means of regulating family size. Parents understand the risks of early motherhood for both mother and child and prefer to postpone the birth of the first child.

· Religion


People recognize that making good choices is not going against the will of God. We do have some control over our lives and we have the freedom to make decisions which will be best for ourselves, our children and our community.