CHILD FOSTERING IN WEST AFRICA: PREVALENCE, DETERMINANTS AND DEMOGRAPHIC CONSEQUENCES (GHANA, LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE, NIGERIA)

UCHE C ISIUGO-ABANIHE, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

Child fostering or the practice of sending children out to be raised by nonbiological parents is widespread among many societies in West Africa. Where prevalent, the practice could have consequences on demographic events. The institution is studied in its own right as a demographic variable, and as a variable that affects other demographic phenomena. The nature of child fostering is examined using secondary data from Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Western Nigeria. Because of variations both in the content and quality of these data, different procedures and levels of analysis are employed. With respect to the characteristics of fosters, only in the Ghanaian data was it possible to link children to their parents, selecting the unmatched children as fosters. The number of mothers who reported children away is large, though there are considerable regional and ethnic variations. Fosters are more selective of female children than males, more rural than urban in origin, mainly related to their foster parents, and are more likely than non-fosters to be enrolled in schools. A wide spectrum of women send out their children and receive the children of others. There is no consistent pattern of variation in the characteristics of foster parents and non-foster parents; however, the former are, on average, older and perhaps more literate than the latter. The out-fostering of children has a positive association with the number of surviving children, work participation outside the home, and instability of marital unions and polygyny, while maternal education has an inverse relation with the fostering-out of children. The analyses also suggest that the fostering-out of children could result in higher mortality among children not living with natural parents. However, this result need to be confirmed by a more direct data on child fostering. The determinants and consequences of the practice of relocating children with relatives or nonrelatives has largely been ignored by demographers. Yet it has been shown here that the practice might affect fertility, mortality, migration and labor force participation. The institution of child fostering is a demographically important phenomenon which needs more research efforts.

Subject Area

Demographics

Recommended Citation

ISIUGO-ABANIHE, UCHE C, "CHILD FOSTERING IN WEST AFRICA: PREVALENCE, DETERMINANTS AND DEMOGRAPHIC CONSEQUENCES (GHANA, LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE, NIGERIA)" (1983). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI8316036.
https://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8316036

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