Families and households

Families and households are rapidly changing in South Africa. Marriage has become the exception rather than the rule, the proportion of children living with their biological father is in steady decline, and the proportion of all-woman, multi-generation households is rising. Remittances to distant kin have declined dramatically, paternal kin take less and less interest in children, and even close kin cannot be relied upon to provide financial or other support in times of need. Child-headed households have become a cause for public concern.

The SSU has conducted a range of quantitative and qualitative research on relationships between kin, and between kin and non-kin, in “households” and “families”, and the consequences of these for the ways that people address the challenges of poverty and illness in contemporary South Africa. Research includes:

the effects of AIDS on household composition, and the effects of this on poverty and food security. This research – funded through a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation – examined how people make decisions about where and with whom to live, and how these decisions are affected by AIDS-related morbidity and mortality. This resulted in a series of working papers (by Jeremy Seekings, Arianne de Lannoy and Rachel Bray, as well as by David Neves and Andries du Toit from PLAAS (at the University of the Western Cape).

the experiences and attitudes towards parenting of transnational migrants from Africa in South Africa and the Netherlands. This research involves a collaboration with researchers from the University of Maastricht. Post-doctoral researcher Stanford Mahati began his research in Johannesburg in late 2013, working with Elena Moore and Jeremy Seekings.

experiences of family. Elena Moore’s research examines experiences of marriage and dissolution in Ireland and South Africa (including under customary law).

public regulation of care, kinship and care: Anya Woolley completed her dissertation (cum laude) in 2013 on foster care for children in small, informal care homes.

The CSSR hopes to be able to establish soon a new inter-disciplinary research unit focusing on this field. The new unit would promote conversations between economists, historians, anthropologists and sociologists, integrating quantitative and qualitative research in ways that could contribute to many areas of public policy.