An extended family consists of people who are closely related living together in the same house or compound. Usually, it consists of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties, cousins, nephews and nieces all living together in a huge house, though it depends on whether it is a large family or not. Extended family like any other thing has advantages as well as disadvantages. In some instance however, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and so it should be preserved because it brings out the true African in us.
Having grown in such extended family, though not a very large one, I can deduce the advantages as follows; first, living in an extended family has taught me more of my history, the history of the family and made me understood my language better. Normally, my parents go to work and so they had little time to teach us all these things. But having my aunties and uncles around has helped me learn so much about my history. I was never lonely while my parents were away, my aunty would narrate folk stories to me in Fulfulde and because of my curiosity, I would ask to know more about her background and by so doing I got to know more about the family history as a whole.
Furthermore, in an extended family, one has the opportunity of multi-parenting. One is being cared for by different people and this gives me the feeling of being loved by everyone. You never feel dejected or depressed, because if you are being rejected by one person, you are accepted by the other. Due to the large number, one is opportune to learn the values and norms of the society from different people. Therefore, it gives children much more experience and exposure than in a small nuclear family where you learn only from your parents and no one else to help. Your parents cannot teach you everything. Even if they know everything, they cannot teach you because of the little time they have.
Children who grow in extended families learn cooperative work and develop a sense of brotherhood and caring for others so that when they go to the outside world, they become attached to the community and by so doing take all people in the community as his siblings. This helps us to become good leaders of the society. In addition, there is unity among members and thus one can seek protection from his immediate family members.
Another tremendous benefit is seen when there is a new birth, the presence of aunts make it easy for the mother since they take turns in taking care of the baby while the mother get some time to rest. For this, I am a witness and I can’t even imagine how the sufferings would be if everything is left for the mother to do on her own.
Like I said earlier, extended family also has some disadvantages just like any other thing. For instance, one’s privacy may be denied in some cases because of the large number of people. There are some things you will want to do alone or sometimes one may want to think or spend time alone in privacy all of which is very hard to do in the extended family especially a very large one. There is also a kind of monarchy in extended family. A decision made by the over head which is usually the grandfather cannot be challenged any other person. This is a disadvantage because one may not be allowed to exercise his rights of freewill to something.
Some Children get spoilt in extended family by the grandparents. Because the grandparents so love them, they are given freewill to almost anything for some even the bad deeds are ignored. The grandparents may also prevent the parents from taking action on their children and this brings about disrespect from the child’s end.
Trouble, quarrel and conflicts are almost inevitable in extended family. Most times, there are fights especially when there is no mutual understanding among members. You hear about cousins fighting cousins, an uncle hates his nephew and so on and so forth. On the other hand, quarrels are almost null in the nuclear family. Who do you want to fight? Your siblings or parents. But in the extended family, due to the large size and little far relationship between people, these conflicts tend to prevail.
Looking at both sides, it can be deduced that even though extended family has some disadvantages, still yet, the advantages outweighs the disadvantages. Its practice in Africa should therefore be preserved. People should realize the value of having family there to help support them when in need and to give them wisdom in ways that were never thought to be possible.