Stress in Marriage
This paper focuses on the marital relationships of West African couples in London. Whereas traditional West African marital roles are sharply segregated, with each spouse responsible for separate spheres, and clearly defined areas of ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’—‘men’s affairs’ and ‘women’s affairs’—the model of the Western middle-class family, to which professional West Africans increasingly aspire, prescribes companionate marriage with sharing of both rights and responsibilities (see Oppong, 1974). This study was planned to allow the rating of each couple on the extent to which they defined their roles in various spheres as ‘joint’ or ‘segregated’.1 We were concerned to discover to what extent traditional role definitions had persisted in London, where both constraints of daily life and the ‘Western’ family model would tend to favour joint role structure. In selecting the couples for intensive study we chose half from a group with strong patrilineal descent institutions (the Ibo) and half from among a group whose traditional structure was matrilineal (the Ashanti)—both from West Africa. Such a contrast makes it possible to isolate which aspects of traditional social organisation are most closely related to the adaptation of conjugal roles in life in London.
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