Background to the Study
The human family has long been besieged
by many problems. The problems in question, existed side by side with the human
without threatening it with extinction. History relates with the effects of
child abuse and neglect, abject poverty, wife battery, absentee husbands, child
trafficking, adolescent problems, economic austerity, famine, insecurity,
violence, divorce and separation. According to Annie (2000), the recent problem
facing the family structure in the contemporary society, is the problem of
polygamy and large family size.
Anthropological literature often report that African
cultures are greatly polygamous, the term used when one man has more than one
wife. Traditionally, it is the woman who chooses a co-wife – someone with who
she can cope well, like a younger sister or cousin, and in cases where the
husband needs a subsequent wife, the preceding wives get to pick their co-wife
or wives (Whyte, 1990).
According to Ekiran (2003), the polygamous family is any
type of plural marriage. This could be polygamy, in which a man is married to
two or more women at the same time. Care of the major characteristics of
polygamous family is large family size. For instance, in a polygamous family, a
man has many wives and many children. In most cases, the husband of the house
may not be wealthy to take care of all the members of the family. In this case,
the educational career of the children suffers a lot of set backs (Uzomah,
According to Nkemdirim (2005), most children who come from
the polygamous homes hardly perform well in their academic work. He opined that
children from the monogamous homes perform better than their counterparts who
come from the polygamous families.
Adeogun (2000) is of the opinion that children do well in
school when they are supported by their parents, and on the other hand, do not
perform well if their parents fail to support their educational career. In a
polygamous family where the size of the family is quite large, the man who is
the bread-winner, may not be able to pay the school fees of the children,
purchase their educational materials such as books, school uniforms, pocket
money and other items necessary for the children’s success in school. When a
student lacks the opportunity of being provided for and supported to succeed in
his or her education, the child may not have high educational achievement (Ayo,
2002). Parents who have many children as a result of polygamy, oftentimes, fail
to cater for all the children by giving them equal and unbiased treatment.
According to Uzodike (2000), parents who are polygamists, are noted for giving
unequal treatment to their children/wards. In many polygamous homes, parents
are selective in the education of their children/wards. For instance, they do
not allow all children to go to school, due to the fact that they (parents), do
not have the to sponsor all their children’s education. Rather, they send some
of their children to school, while some of them are forced to learn one trade
or the other because, the meagre resources of the family will not be able to
support all the children through school.
In most cases, Adekoya (1990) stated that parents who belong
to the polygamous homes are not educated and so, do not know the importance of
education to the children. For the fact that they are not educated, coupled
with their positions as poor individuals, find it difficult to train their
children to school. Some of them learnt one trade or the other, prefer their
children to toe their lines of trades or businesses, instead of wasting time
going through the rigours of education and learning.
In a study carried out by Onyeji (2001) most polygamous
homes do not support the education of their children, because the children are
too many to be educated. In another development, children from monogamous homes
tend to be more educated than their counterparts in the polygamous homes.
Reason is that children are few in the monogamous homes, and this helps parents
to sponsor them through school because they can afford to pay their school fees
and other payments in the school. This situation has caused children who are in
monogamous homes to have more academic achievement than those in polygamous
homes who are greater in number.
The effect of a large family on academic achievement of a
child cannot be overemphasised. According to Munonye (1999) the size of a
family may affect the academic performance of the child directly or indirectly.
In a study conducted by Musgrave (1996) the researcher asserted that
intelligent parents show their intelligence by limiting the size of their
families. He opined that in a small family, the child is in close touch with
his or her parents, and uses more grown up language and ideas than he or she
would have done if it were in a cloud of siblings, especially in a polygamous
Oloko (1999) revealed that some pupils from large families,
have little or no time to read or even to do their home works. They work till
late in the might and the following day, they sleep in the classroom while the
lessons are going on. Often, this has negative effect on academic performance.
Ola (1990) discovered the same effect of hawking on some Lagos State
primary school children who hawk during traffic hold ups. She concluded that
the large family size due to polygamous structure, has forced them to look
elsewhere to find other means of getting money to feed the family. They neither
have time to take siesta nor have time to study in the evening. Thus, they
perform poorly academically.
As Gallapher (1999) puts, in a family that is relatively
large, especially in the polygamous ones, no one child is focused up and so,
the parents especially the father cannot afford to offer them all, adequate and
equal amount of assistance both in their studies and parental cares needed by
Muntreal (1991), agreed that children from small size
family, perform better than those from large size family. Fraser (1993), also
supported the argument that children of large families, have limited
opportunities, verbal symbols, hence, they are at disadvantage not only in
terms of verbal fluency and vocabulary, but also in the process which depend so
largely on the acquisition of these verbal symbols.
In a related study, Nimkoff (2000) stated that large
families or polygamous marriages tend to lower the educational achievement of
“more capital members of the family” and thereby lowering their economic
incentive than children from small families in some cases, monogamous
marriages. Large families, according to Adamson (2004) restricts choice of
opportunity because decisions are supposed to be made on the basis of what is
best for the family, and not for the individual.
It is against this background that this
study, an examination of polygamous and family size as determinants of
students’ academic performance was carried out.
Statement of the Problem
problems that are inherent in polygamous as a type of family system cannot be
over-emphasised. This is because, the polygamous family structure is usually
characterised with large family size comprising mostly of children and wives. Also,
the resultant effect of large family size is as a result of polygamy,
especially on the academic performance of students which cannot be
overemphasised. What this means is that, in most cases, large family size does
not augur well with high academic achievement of children. According to
Musgrave (1994), the size of the family may affect the academic performance of
the child either positively or negatively. In a polygamous family where the
size of the family is quite large, the man who is the bread-winner, may not be
able to pay the school fees
of the children, purchase their educational materials such as books, school
uniforms, pocket money and other items necessary for the children’s success in
school. When a student lacks the opportunity of being provided for and
supported to succeed in his or her education, the child may not have high
educational achievement (Ayo, 2002). Parents who have many children as a result
of polygamy, oftentimes, fail to cater for all the children by giving them
equal and unbiased treatment
The above problems, give rise to the
examination of the effect of polygamous and family size on student’s academic
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to:
out the effects of polygamy on the family.
To find out whether polygamous and large family size have
influences on students’ academic performance in schools.
To find out if students from polygamous and large size
families perform poorly than students from monogamous or small size families.
To find out if lack of fatherly attention in a polygamous
home has negative impact on students’ academic performance.
To find out if school management including disciplinary
committee handles problems arising from polygamous and large size families.
research questions were raised in this study:
What are the possible effects of polygamy on the family?
Do polygamous and large family size have influence on
students’ academic performance?
Do students from polygamous and large family size perform
poorly than those from monogamous or small size families?
Does lack of fatherly attention in a polygamous family have
impact on students’ academic achievement?
To what extent do school management and disciplinary
committee handle problems arising from polygamous and large family size?
Will there be a possible solution to the problem of polygamy
and large family size on students’ academic achievement?
The following hypotheses were tested in
There will be no significant effects of polygamy on social
adjustment of students in the school.
There will be no significant relationship between polygamy
and large family size and students’ academic performance.
There will be no significant difference between the
performance of students from polygamous and large family size and those from
monogamous or small size families.
There will be no significant impact of lack of fatherly
attention on students’ academic performance.
of the Study
The findings will be of immense worth
to parents and adults to know the impact of polygamy in their children’s academic
performance at school and to know the hazards of keeping large family sizes.
The study will also help the students
greatly because it will enlighten them on some of the variables that
will contribute to their academic failure and to consult the school counsellor
who will assist them to find solutions to their home problems.
This research will
further equip the school counsellors, psychologists, sociologists, educators
and the general public with a thorough understanding of different family
backgrounds, the associated problems and the extent to which these variables
influence students in the school.
At the end of the research work,
the government and the policy makers will see the need for providing all
secondary schools with guidance counsellors, psychologists and sociologists
whose duty is to relate students academic problem to such factors as the family
size and parental background, and the parental variables so as to help foster
and better their academic performance.
Conflict-Marxian Theory of Family
Weber (1864 – 1920)
This theory see the process of marriage
and the family as sympathetic in which members of the family encounter unending
problem of conflicting interests. The Conflict-Marxian theorists perceive marriage
and the family as a continuous competitive social system. Arnolds (1990) stated that competitive, due
to its nature of being a state of negative interdependence between the elements
of social system. Due to this conflict, there is gain/loose situation, because
what is gained to one party, becomes loose to the other party in the great
divide. The most important ingredients or elements in the conflict – Marxian
theory is that conflict is unavoidable part of humanity and associations which
involves family life and marriage. Adamson (2000) observed that the Marxian
theories see the family as an institution surrounded with inevitable confrontation
or conflict and of constant state of change. The emphasis worthy of note
in this theory, is the competing needs, values, goals or
objectives of partners who are involved in marital unions.
For the fact that people’s wants/needs are scarce and in little quantity,
therefore, this desires to attain or get one’s needs or wants, brings about
competition and conflicts among people in the society, more especially the
Edith (1998) stated that the Conflict –
Marxian theorists do not see the constant confrontation in the family as
necessarily destructive, rather they consider conflict in the family as
essential element and catalyst of interest that are out to be treated in a
constructive manner through negotiation and compromise. The Conflict-Marxian
theorists therefore, perceive conflicts in the family potentials for the
promotion and enhancement of interpersonal growth and development in the
The above theory is apt to the topic
polygamy and family size and the students’ academic performance. This is
because in polygamous and large sized families, there tend to be rivalries
between wives and among children of the wives. Most times, this rivalry bring
about hatred among the children and among the wives of the polygamous man. The
after effect could be the man loving some children and hating some of them. In
other words, he could be selective of who to sponsor to school and whom he
of the Study
The study will be
limited to Ikorodu Education Zone of Lagos State.
is a number of people in a family which includes father, wife/wives, the
children, relatives and other dependents.
A family comprising parents with one to four children.
This is a family comprising of parents with five and above number of children
with relatives and other dependents.