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Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on family structures and social interactions

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By AuthorAID Team | July 8, 2020  | Nigeria

Solih Abdulhakeem has a Bachelor of Sociology and Anthropology from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Nigeria. This post discusses the impacts of COVID-19 on family structures and social interactions in Ife-Central in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in individuals and groups modifying their actions and reactions. In the Ife Central region of Nigeria, the most common family structures are the single-parent family (particularly single-mother families), followed by stepfamilies and grandparent-led families. The impact of COVID-19 on these families and their social interactions is like the two sides of a coin, both positive and negative.

A positive impact has been an increase in social interactions within the family, with parents spending more time with their children due to the stay-at-home guidelines. There is increased handwashing and use of disinfectants, although there is a problem of lack of water supply in some areas. Family members are increasingly avoiding physical contact from other community members. Most of the family members practice indoor activities. Nevertheless, to receive donations of basic food supplies and personal care commodities; family representatives’ physical appearance must be in line with COVID-19 guidelines as described by the Nigeria Centre for Disease and Control (NCDC), which include distancing and the use of protective equipment. Interestingly, children are now being socialized into new ways of greeting without handshakes, for example tapping each other’s elbows and feet. This was previously considered an act of disrespect before COVID-19 but is now a gradually accepted form of salutations.

On the other hand, negative impact on family structures and interactions have led to domestic violence, disrupting former family structures with a ripple effect on communities. In some single parent families, cases of single mothers having illicit sexual relationship with men, married or unmarried, has led to numerous disputes in the community. This is also true among stepchildren in stepfamilies. Owing to proximity, some stepsiblings have been caught in the act of incestuous relationships and sometimes stepfathers being erroneously accused. An increase in expenditure as a result of increase in price of commodities while family incomes reduce is painfully felt. Most families manage limited resources by skipping some meals. Another negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is on family members’ social interactions, where some members complained about others’ laziness and TV addiction. In polygynous families where wives are not staying in same community, husbands cannot travel due to government movement restrictions, which has led to emotional and psychological stress to other wives. Although husbands might try to keep in touch by calling via mobile phones, most co-wives are not happy about the situation.

Solih Abdulhakeem can be found on LinkedIn

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