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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. 1 - What do you think of that?

A series of statements to provoke discussion on family roles and responsibilities, and decisions regarding family size.

What do you think of that?



Note: If the group member cannot read, the leader can read the statement for them, but the member should still give his or her opinion about the statement.

· The leader writes each of the statements on pages 12 and 13 on a separate card or piece of paper and passes one out to each of the group members.

· A group member reads the statement on his or her card out loud and gives an opinion about the statement. Other participants either support or disagree with the participant's opinion.

· When the discussion is concluded, the leader summarizes the main point.

· The activity continues with another participant reading his or her statement.


So that group members will be able to:

· Recognize that stereotyped roles and responsibilities for family members may reduce personal and family development.

· Understand the factors which need to be considered when making decisions about family size and child spacing.

· Express their own opinions and listen to those of others.



· Cards or pieces of paper.
· The background information and statements on the following pages.
· Participation and respect.

Some background information for the group leader

What do we mean by a family?

A family is made up of people related by blood, marriage or law (formal or social). Examples of family members related by blood are brothers and sisters, parents and their children. Family members related by marriage include, not only husband and wife, but also the husband's and wife's relatives. For example, if a woman's husband has a brother, he is her brother-in-law. There also can be family members who are not related by blood or marriage. For example, a child may be adopted, that is, raised by people other than his natural parents. Sometimes adoptions are done by a legal procedure and sometimes they are just an agreement between two families. In both cases, the adopted child becomes a member of his or her new family.

The family is the basic social unit.

The extended family

The nuclear family means just the parents and children. The extended family includes uncles and aunts, cousins, and grandparents.

What are the different kinds of families?

The basic family unit is made up of a mother and father and their children. This is called a nuclear family. When used in this way, nuclear doesn't mean anything to do with nuclear energy or atomic bombs; it simply means the basic core or nucleas of a family group.

Often, however, more people than just the nuclear family share a household. The unit may include grandparents, aunts and uncles and their children, etc. This kind of family is called an extended family. In many places in Africa, the extended family is the most common type of family unit.

Families can also be classified by the relationship between the father and mother. One kind of family is one in which each man has only one wife - these are called monogamous families. In some societies, men sometimes have more than one wife - these are called polygamous families.

In some societies, having more than one wife is not permitted by law. In these societies, if a man marries more than one woman, he is considered a criminal and called a bigamist.

There are also societies in which a woman may have more than one husband, but these are very rare.

In some cases, a family may be headed by only one parent. This can occur if one of the parents dies, or if the mother and father are both alive but decide not to live together. These are called one-parent families. In most cases, a single-parent family consists of a mother and her children.

What are the roles and responsibilities of family members?

In all types of families, each member of the family has a certain role and various responsibilities, defined both by law and by custom. At one time, the roles of family members were very rigidly defined. In most cases, the father was responsible for providing food, shelter and money for the family, and also made all of the important decisions. The father often took very little interest at all in the children, especially when they were very young.

The mother was usually responsible for raising the children, preparing the food and keeping the household in order. Often the mother was not allowed to participate in family decision making. Even decisions which directly concerned her, for example, whether to have children or not, were made by the husband.

Children and the father

Children were expected to obey their parents, and all of their elders, without question. They had jobs to do which were strictly defined by sex. For example, girls helped in the household and gathered wood, while the boys tended the cattle. Children had no voice at all in family decisions. Today, however, these rigid definitions of roles within the family based on sex are changing rapidly in many areas.

People are beginning to understand that we all have equal capabilities and therefore should have equal rights. In more and more families, husbands and wives make important family decisions together, and social and work responsibilities are less rigidly defined. Fathers take an active interest in their children and share in giving them the love and affection they need. In many areas, women do a great deal of the field work as well as looking after the home and children. Women are increasingly being recognized today for the contributions they make to the family, both in the home and as income generators. Children and young people are beginning to be included in family decision making and boys and girls are treated as equals, as they should be.

Of course, not everyone understands or accepts these new roles and responsibilities based on respect and equality. It will take hard work and patience and understanding by everyone, especially youth and young adults, to build better families in the future.

Statements for Activity No. 1

Old people are just a burden and it is a disadvantage to have them in the household.

It's OK to treat an adopted child differently than your real brother or sister.

The opinions of all members of the family should be taken into account.

The only authority in the family is the father.

Children should help with household chores.

The more children, the less the work will be for each one.

Children should receive love, attention and care from their mother, but not from their father.

Husbands should help with the chores in the household.

Big families are happy families.

A loving wife is quiet and never argues with her husband.

Boys should be treated sternly so that they grow up to be real men.

Women who don't have children are not fulfilling their role in life.

If there are only girls in the family, the parents should keep having children until they have a son.

And any others the group may add