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PUBLIC PERCEPTION ON THE IMPACT OF CHILDLESSNESS ON MARRIED COUPLE: A STUDY OF AWGU LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, ENUGU STATE, NIGERIA

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the Study

According to Merlo (2002), procreation is the function of the family; every man takes a wife apparently to have children for the continuity of his name and linage and for general productivity and development in the society. In traditional Igbo society, many wives try to ensure the procreation of children to its fullest limit. Where this main purpose of marriage is not forth coming into fulfillment it results to tension.

Zastrow (2001), identified reasons couples decided to have children, from the origin, biblically, having children is a blessed event and ranging from religion to ideology to economic necessity and cultural expectation. Historically, in agricultural and pre-industrial societies children were seen as economic asset; their labors were important in planting and harvesting crops and in tending domestic animals. Parents wanted large families to help with the work because, children were seen as economic asset, and values were gradually established that it was natural and desirable for married couples to procreate.

In a typical traditional society childlessness has been regarded as great personal tragedy involving much emotional pain and grief, especially when it results from the failure to conceive (infertility) or when it results from the death of a child (Charlene, 2007).

According to Mccury (2005), before conception was well understood, childlessness was usually blamed on the woman and this in itself added to the high negative emotional and social effects of childlessness.  The concept “childlessness” can be seen in two senses in this study. Rowland (2001), Merlo (2002), and Zastrow (2001) describe childlessness as the willingness to have children but they are not forth coming and childlessness as the ability to have children but decide not to. Childlessness as the unwillingness to have children implies to married couples that choose not to have children and this is termed “child free”. In the same vein childlessness as the willingness to have children refers to married couples that are ready and willing to have children but are not able and this is the termed “involuntary childlessness” (Zastrow 2001), this is the concern of this study.

Some wealthy families also adopt children as a means of providing heirs in case of childlessness. The monetary incentives offered by the westerner’s desire for children are so strong that a commercial market in the child laundering business exists. Merlo (2002) and Rowland (2001) are of opinion that childlessness is concern, partly with its implications for the maintenance of society and partly because of its consequences for individual. Childlessness has a function of population control but that is not the concern of this study. The main focus of this study is the effects and implication of childlessness for married couples in the society.

Throughout the world and particularly in African societies, the word “childlessness” sends a cold signal and the sense of pity is immediately aroused. Having children is necessary for married couples and is considered as a major necessity in marriage. From cultural and traditional perspective the reason for marriage is for procreation, continuity of linage and impact or transferring cultural values and norm form one generation to another within the society (Gibson 2002).

In modern world, “childlessness” denotes merely the absence of children. The term has intimations of loss and bereavement, but technically applies to any without children; whether this is by choice, by circumstance, or by biology is undermined.

The social construction in many cultures is that men and women are meant to become parents and that women especially socialized to become mothers (Gibson, Meyer and Dyer 2002) found that most of the married women considered fertility as the primary function of being a woman. Becoming a parent will often corroborate feeling of self worth and sexual identity when people have been socialized into that role. In essence, the social construction of the role of mothers and fathers has become a part of the identities of man and woman in the society. A study conducted by Gibson and Meyers (2002) indicates that in general women experience more negative effects than men throughout the entire involuntarily childless diagnostic and treatment process. Women experience a greater sense of loss of control than men, and have a greater tendency to blame themselves for the couple’s infertility. Adding to this, women are more likely to perceive childlessness as simply unacceptable. Many authors suggest that women experience a more difficult adjustment to infertility than their partners, due in large part to the emphasis in our society on the role of women as mothers.

The purpose of this study is to explore the phase women endure from being childless and to highlight some of the complexities underpinning childlessness and its impacts on married couple, and family in Awgu Local Government Area of Enugu state and also to gain deeper insight into how women incorporated this experience into their lives and relationships and how they began to create a future life without their own biological children.

Based on the trends of childlessness in Nigeria, this project has been undertaken to ascertain the extent of peoples’ perception on the impact of childlessness on married couples in Nigeria using Awgu Local Government Area, Enugu State Nigeria as a case study.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The number of childless couples is tremendously on the increase, According to Ugwuanyi (2000), 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 like Nigeria mostly by couples without even a child.

According to Dike (2013) most couples are childless as a result of the degree of their waywardness when they were young or during their youthful age and unmarried, such as illicit use of drugs in order to avoid pregnancy, smoking of cigrates, cocaine, and marijuana e.t.c.

The World Health Organization (2014) stated that married couples suffer from childlessness for so many reason such as drug abuse, hard drugs intake, contraception, numerous abortions, and genetically inherited sickness that could lead to low sperm count and most cases psychological problems.

According to Nwapa (2004), some couples attribute to 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 their fetish lifestyle consulting their gods to seek solutions to their problem or appealing their gods as a means to cleanse them from such predicament. Nwapa also outline that childlessness can also be seen as consequences from the gods when an abomination or taboo has been committed, there can also be death of existing children rendering the married couples childless (Nwapa 2004).

Married couples faces a lot of problems and discrimination, from the society due to the fact that the married couples cannot procreate but in the same vein the society also suffer 30% of this childlessness problem, there will be low manpower  and fluctuating number of people in the workforce and the social structure will not function properly (Hales 2000).

The researcher carried out a survey to find out the factors that generate childlessness, origin of childlessness in Awgu and people’s perception about childlessness and its effects, and implication on married couples in Nigeria using Awgu Local Government, Enugu State Nigeria as a case study with the view of proffering solution by ways of recommendation and intervention.

1.3 Research Questions

The following research questions have been put forward to guide this study.

  1. What are the causes of childlessness in Awgu L.G.A?
  2. What are the social implications of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L.G.A?
  3. What are the cultural implications of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L.G.A?
  4. What are the psychological implications of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L.G.A?
  5. What are the perceptions of the public towards childless couples in Awgu L.G.A?
  6. What are the solutions to childlessness problem inAwgu L.G.A?

 

 

 

 

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this study is to examine the impacts of childlessness on married couple in Awgu L.G.A of Enugu state. Specifically, the following objectives will be treated:

  1. To find out what are the major causes of childlessness in Awgu L.G.A
  2. To indentify the social implication of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L.G.A
  3. To indentify the cultural implication of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L.G.A
  4. To find out the perception of people towards childlessness in Awgu L.G.A
  5. To proffer possible solutions on how to eradicate childlessness problem in Awgu L.G.A.

 

1.5 Significance of Study

This study has both theoretical and practical significance.

Theoretically, the study will provide the perceptions of people towards childless couples in Awgu L. G.A. The study will provide the basic materials which the researcher in this topic will find valuable. This study will add to the existing body of knowledge on medical sociology. It will create room for further research on the socio-cultural impact of childlessness on married couples in other areas. It will also provide relevant data on how childlessness creates problems in the family and Awgu L. G.A at large. It will help to expand their

knowledge on the concept and impact of childlessness on married couples in Awgu L. G.A and beyond. It will also provide materials for researchers to anchor their studies and also provide them with relevant literatures for analysis and review of relevant literature for analysis and review.

Practically, the study will be of great relevance to students of sociology. The study will provide useful information that can be used by health care providers. The research work is of importance to the researcher as it is a basic requirement for the award of a university Bachelor of Science degree Findings of this study will provide useful information that will shade more light on the difficulties encountered by childless couple and proffer possible solutions to this problem.

1.6 Definition of Terms

Adoption: The voluntary acceptance of a child of other parents to be the same as one’s own child through legal term.

Childless: The absence of children in a family resulting from the inability to conceive a child by married couple or death of existing children.

Couples: This refers to a man and woman united and legally bounded in marriage.

Conception: This refers to the act of conceiving; the fertilization of an ovum by a sperm to form a zygote.

Culture: The arts, customs, beliefs, values, behavior and material objects that constitute peoples’ way of life.

Fertility: The condition, or the degree of being fertile

Infertility: The inability to conceive after a period of 12 months of uncontrollable and unprotected sexual intercourse.

Lineage: Descent in a line from a common progenitor; descending line of offspring or ascending line of parentage.

Sexual intercourse: The physical activity

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