Demographic and spatial-temporal dimensions of marital instability and its effects on the family livelihoods in Machakos County, Kenya.
Masua, Musau Jackson
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This study aimed at establishing demographic and spatial-temporal dimensions of marital instability among women in the rural areas and its effects on their family livelihoods.The study adapted a case study design in which through simple random sampling, one Division was randomly selected in each of the three sampled Districts in Machakos County. Purposive and snowball sampling methods were used to sample the respondents.In total, the sample constituted of 300 women aged between 15-49 years who were separated, divorced or deserted by their husbands.Primary data were collected from the field using questionnaires, Focus Group Discussions (FGD’s) and Key Informants.The information was supplemented by secondary data from library and Internet.The collected data were edited, coded and then subjected to descriptive analysis, and inferential statistical analysis using Chi-square test (χ2), correlation analysis, and logistic regression among other statistical tools. Results indicate that, out of the sampled women,78% were separated,11.3% deserted, and 9.4% divorced while 1.3% had filed for divorce.The separation rate was found to decrease with increase in age while desertion and divorce rates increased with increase in age. Results indicate that, womens (p=0.038) and husbands (p=0.0001) age at marriage influenced marital instability.The median age at marriage of this group of women is 19 years; their mean duration of marriage and age at separation is 7.5 years and 26.6 years, respectively.The odds of separating increased by 51% and 80% for women who had 2-3 or more than 3 children, respectively.The odds reduced by 71% and 67% for those who courted for less than 1 year and 1-2 years respectively.Irresponsibility (74%) and infidelity (51.3%) were found to be the leading factors influencing marital instability.Violence (42.3%), alcoholism (38.7%), in law problems (24%),unemployment (11%),age difference (10%), and polygamy (10%) were the other cited reasons.Family background factors such as father education (p=0.040) and occupation (p=0.020), parents’ marital status (p=0.005) and approval of marriage by the parents (p=0.018) highly influenced the rate of marital instability.The rate was also high among women with low level of education while cohabitation was found to be insignificant.Place of resident before and after marriage showed significant (p=0.016) association with marital instability. Results on domestic assaults in particular sexual abuse in marriage appear to be more of a reaction from other problems in marriage just as it is physical assaults and alcoholism.There was a strong association between physical assaults and forced sex (0.788).Results and data analysis further indicate that ,most of the separated mothers are faced with challenges of achieving and maintaining their livelihoods due to financial hardships (98%).About 89.3% lack shared parenting with their former husbands; 68.3% lack economic support from their relatives, government and NGO’s.This increases their vulnerability to poverty.Majority rely on casual jobs (44.7%) or are self-employed (42.7%).They live in rented houses (61%), or with relatives (29.7%).Most of them (93%) are left with young children aged below 12 years at the time of separation. Poverty affects their children as depicted by the high rates of school dropouts in primary (21%) and secondary (9.7%) and also increased use of child labour in the region.From the research findings, it was recommended that, there is need for the Kenyan Government, the County Governments and NGO’s through the relevant department offices to sensitize the public about the causes and outcomes of family conflicts and to address the root cause of child labour, create livelihood opportunities and poverty reduction schemes for separated/divorced parents in the rural areas.These recommentations will improve livelihoods and reduce poverty especially among the affected female headed households in the rural areas.