Year: 2002
Working paper number: 017
Author: Russell, Margo
Unit: SSU

It has been repeatedly argued that black South Africans are in the process of transition from an extended lineage-based consanguinal family system to a Western style nuclear conjugal system (for example, Nzimande, 1987; Clark and van Heerden, 1992; Steyn, 1993a; Amoateng, 1997).  To date, most of the debate over this supposed transition has focused on household composition (see, most recently, Ziehl, 2001).  Another way of assessing this supposed transition is to examine the strength of verbal commitment to Western conjugal family norms.  This Working Paper reports on research into such commitment. A set of thirteen statements about appropriate family behaviour was devised (see further Russell, 1999) and used to compare the responses of three groups of South Africans: urban whites, urban blacks and rural blacks.  The implicit hypothesis of the exercise was that urban blacks would respond like rural blacks rather than like urban whites: that, in matters of family and kinship, urban blacks are more likely to share norms about appropriate behaviour with rural blacks (on the basis of a shared distinctive African cultural approach to kinship) than with urban whites (on the basis of a shared urban experience).

Publication file: wp17.pdf