A genealogical analysis of children's family network dynamics in a rural sub-Saharan population

Olivia Samuel, Université de Versailles St Quentin and Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Aurélien Dasre, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense and Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)
Véronique Hertrich, Institut National d'Études Démographiques (INED)

It is almost a truism to say that the family environment in sub-Saharan Africa is complex. The contours of membership groups – residential, economic, lineage – are variable; relationships between spouses and family members take a wide range of forms (polygamy, large age differences between spouses, intergenerational co-residence, classificatory system of kinship) and mobility is high, starting in childhood. In short, individuals, especially children, are bound up in dense and shifting family networks. Usually, demographic research focuses on the relation between parents and children observed at a specific period of time. This approach presents some limits: it takes into account only a small part of children’s family network and it underestimates family arrangement dynamics. Due to quantitative longitudinal data collected for a period of 25 years in Malian rural areas which also include a genealogical database, we are not only able of describing in detail the children’s family environment but also its continuing transformation as the child gets older. Two main results stand out. In one hand Children’s family network is not static: children are growing up in family and relational configurations which are continuously transformed. In a second hand, stability of the members of the children environment greatly depends of the type of genealogical link. We found that the more closer are individuals with the child (biological parents, brotherhood..), the more they are likely to stay around the child for a long time. Generally ignored, the flexibility and the instability of the relational environment appear as a major component of the individual experience and of the children’s socialization context. Yet, the closest family members of the children stay quiet stable around him

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session 1