Childlessness has varied consequences through its effects on societies and on the lifestyles and life chances of individuals. The childless lifestyle enhances life satisfaction for some individuals, while diminishing it for others, for whom parenthood was a personal goal. For societies, childlessness is a factor in low birth rates and population decline, with which are associated diminishing labour force entries and rising proportions in older ages. Childlessness is therefore a consideration for policy makers, both because of its demographic impact and because of its effects on the lives of individuals. The latter become most apparent in the older ages, where childlessness means that family resources for support of the disabled or frail are less assured (World Health Organization, 1999).
Studies of the advantages and disadvantages of childlessness in later life suggest that well-being is not necessarily dependent on children, because the childless can meet their expressive (emotional) needs through greater contact with other relatives, friends, and neighbours, as well as with organizations such as clubs and churches. However, the childless in poor health appear to have a higher risk of social isolation or of admission to aged care institutions. This implies that the support networks of the childless elderly are less effective in providing instrumental (practical) support, at least when the need is continuing. Although the majority of the elderly do not necessarily see family care as the best alternative, without the prospect of periodic help from children, or their assistance as a last resort, the childless must be more reliant on formal services or institutional care. Thus, as cohorts with high proportions childless reach the older ages, familycentered approaches to aged care become less effective. In the late twentieth century, many of the aged in industrialized countries had few close relatives, which brought to the fore questions about their access to support. The decline of childlessness among later cohorts is now reducing the prevalence of such problems.However, by the 2020s, similar concerns about the adequacy of personal resources will confront the 1950s cohorts, as childlessness continues to shape their destiny. The proportions childless are unlikely to fall below 10 percent in any of the more developed countries for which data are available. Merriam Webster dictionary (2002) marriage is the legally or formally recognized union of a man and a woman. Though a universal phenomenon, cultural differences abound in the formation of the family and the universal features are important. Everybody makes choices on a daily basis; some of them are as simple as choosing a lunch menu but others are as serious as whom to marry. These choices, big or small, shape our lives and future. Whether or not to become a parent is one of the significant and serious choices. For most people, getting married and starting a family- having children-is not a matter of choice; they are a rite of passage.
In marriage, childlessness is one aspect of the diversity inherent in contemporary experience of marriage and the family. For most of history, childlessness has been regarded as great personal tragedy involving much emotional pain and grief, especially when it is resulted from failure to conceive or from the death of a child. With this greater diversity, once common pressures for childbearing have given way to greater social acceptance of remaining single or married without children. Before conception was well understood, childlessness was usually blamed on the woman and this in itself added to the high level negative emotional and social effects of childlessness. Some wealthy families also adopted children as a means of providing heirs in case of childlessness or where no son had been born, the monetary incentives offered by westerners desire for children is so strong that a commercial market in the child laundering business exists. Nonetheless, childlessness is a concern, partly because of its implications for the maintenance of societies and partly because of its unwanted consequences for individuals. However, societies regard children as the most important asset in every successful marriage and for this reason; childless couples become an object of ridicule in their communities. The dynamics of culture and human relationships have made researchers to observe many influences, manifestations, happenings and occurrences in marriage stability within the Yoruba community. However one of the general cultural beliefs in Yoruba marriage is that procreation is the basic aim of marriage, for them marriage and procreation are inseparable. However, modernization has not weakened the deep rooted tradition of having a child as soon as possible after marriage. According to Owo (1994), having many children makes one feel contented and important and also usually respected by others for not being childless. Marriage which fail to produce children often end in divorce. It is also describe as the dissolution or abrogation of marriage. Psychologically, Owo (1994) explained that childless couples especially the women are always depressed about their condition; they always feel bad because most of the blames are levied against them. The pains suffered by childless couples attract sympathy.
Every action, utterances and words from either the husband, his relations especially those of the mothers, brothers and sisters in-law are carefully analyzed and deeply interpreted to have been directed to the very fact that they have no child. They misconstruct people‟s idea and statement about themselves and read meanings into them. Most couples avoid people in order to evade the embarrassment they suffer; they feel embarrassed when people out of ignorance ask them about their children, some pick-up quarrel in such situations while others end up in committing suicide. Also, majority of childless men or women go mental. It is based on these assertions that the researcher intends to carry out the study, in order to investigate the impact of childlessness on married couples.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Throughout the world and particularly in African societies, the word “childlessness” sends interest to the ears of listener and a sense of pity is immediately aroused in the mind. Children are regarded as great treasure to their parents, relations and their immediate community. Many people suffer from childlessness for so many reasons such as drug abuse, hard drugs effect, contraception, numerous abortions, and some are genetically inherited. Unfortunately in Nigeria, it is the woman who suffers most even when she is not the problem. She is constantly under stress, frustration and disappointment. She loses respect and may be ridiculed. She is always tensed and sorrowful. Nigerian men simply refuse to accept that they could be the problem and the women in their desperation from social pressures have been forced to help their men to bring in children from outside. Childlessness causes constant fights, misunderstanding and suspicion in the marriage. Sex becomes mechanical and unfulfilling. The risk of being sterile can be a heavy burden. The woman risk divorce and in some cases gets rivals. The number of childless couples is tremendously on the increase, this is evident to the fact that attempts to initiate a move which would have been directed towards adoption is taken with serious resistance in some places mostly by couples without even a child. Meanwhile, most couples are childless as a result of the degree of their waywardness while they were youths or younger and unmarried, such as illicit use of drugs in order to avoid pregnancy (Ugwuanyi, 1999). According to Nwapa (1996), some couples attribute their problem of childlessness to the supernatural, the hope in God that gives children to remember them at the appropriate time while some couples usually fall back to adoption, they are comfortable for being biologically infertile, they no longer want to know the cause of their infertility and solve it or get rid of it (Diemere et al, 2000). However, there is difficulty in the way childless couples have been communicating with friends who do have children. They describe as negative (although sometimes well-meant) remarks within the couples' social worlds, for instance at birthday parties and other social gatherings. It is possible for childless couples to participate in the 'world of children', especially if couples have good friends or relatives who have children and on the cultural aspects of childlessness such family becomes isolated and the wife faces inheritance restrictions on property and burial rights, also there is usually marital instability including fear of the husband taking a second wife, divorce and physical abuse by partner. Various studies had been carried on the impact of childlessness on married couples, but none had been written about the selected Yoruba cultural communities, this is a gap which this study intends to fill. This study intends to add to the existing knowledge about impact of childlessness on married couples in the selected Yoruba communities in South-West, Nigeria.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The study sought to evaluate the socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples. Specifically, the study sought to;
i. To examine the socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples in Nigeria.
ii. To determine the relationship between childlessness and socio-cultural impact on married couples.
iii. To examine the factors responsible for infertility of couples in Nigeria.
1.4 Research Questions
i. What is the socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples in Nigeria?
ii. Is there a relationship between childlessness and socio-cultural impact on married couples?
iii. What are the factors responsible for infertility of couples in Nigeria?
1.5 Research Hypotheses
H0: There is no significant socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples in Nigeria.
Hi: There is a significant socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples in Nigeria.
H0: There is no significant relationship between childlessness and socio-cultural impact on married couples.
Hi: There is a significant relationship between childlessness and socio-cultural impact on married couples.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this study and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their research work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other study.
1.7 Scope of the Study
This study is on childlessness and socio-cultural impact on married couples, the study will be conducted in Selected Yoruba Communities in South-West Nigeria.
1.8 Limitations of the study
The demanding schedule of respondents at work made it very difficult getting the respondents to participate in the survey. As a result, retrieving copies of questionnaire in timely fashion was very challenging. Also, the researcher is a student and therefore has limited time as well as resources in covering extensive literature available in conducting this research. Information provided by the researcher may not hold true for all businesses or organizations but is restricted to the selected organization used as a study in this research especially in Ikeja the locality where this study is being conducted. Finally, the researcher is restricted only to the evidence provided by the participants in the research and therefore cannot determine the reliability and accuracy of the information provided.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Adoption: A non-biological child of a family but legally accepted as a member of that family.
Childless: The inability to conceive and bear a child for married couples. It may have personal, social and or political significance (Peter, N. 2010). They are two distinguishable types of childlessness, voluntary and involuntary, voluntary childlessness is described as childfree, it is a consequence of having made a decision not to produce. To be childless not by choice is defined as involuntary childlessness (Miall Charlene, 1986).
Contraception: It refers to a drug, device or practice used to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant.
Couple: This refers to a man and woman united in marriage.
Culture: According to Edward Tylor (1871), culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.
Fertility: The ability to conceive after sexual intercourse.
Infertility: The inability to conceive after a period of 12months of uncontrollable sexual intercourse (Billings, 2000).
Inheritance: This refers to an ownership of certain property after the death of the original owner.
Linage: The series of families that one belongs to or descends from.
Sexual Intercourse: The physical activity of sex played by couples in order for them to procreate.
Surrogate Mother: This refers to where one act as, serve as or a mother substitute. A woman who bears a child for another person, often for pay, either through artificial insemination or by carrying until birth another mother’s surgical operation.
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