Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Kin in Daily Routines: Time Use and Childrearing in Rural South Africa

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Kin in Daily Routines: Time Use and Childrearing in Rural South Africa

Article excerpt


It has long been established that models of child rearing function according to cultural norms and contextual needs (Levine, 1974; Harkness «fe Super, 1983; Ogbu, 1979). A critical component of any model is time use. Many studies on time use and childrearing have focused on biological parents in the US context (Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006; Hofferth, 2006). There is, however, a dearth in recent scholarship on time use that has incorporated extended kin in the African context. The role of extended kin in child rearing has been well established by scholars working inAfrica (Caldwell «fe Caldwell, 1987; Fapohunda, 1988; Goody, 1982). Yet we know very little about how time is actually used by the various members who partake in some aspect of routine child rearing (Hewlett's (1991) study of paternal time investment among the Aka is one notable exception). In this paper, we address this gap by examining the interaction between young children and parents, extended kin and non-kin in a rural Black community in South Africa where Black families are responding to and resisting the social and economic transformation that is currently under way in the aftermath of apartheid. Using observational data from an ethnographic study, we examine 1) the composition of children's care networks; 2) the quantity and quality of time invested by members of the care network; and 3) the relationship between time use and children's behavior and hygiene. Our findings lend support to a "socially distributed" model of childrearing that operates in a context marked by distinctive forms of modernity and enduring traditional norms.


Time Use and Models of Child Rearing

Time investment in children is influenced by norms about who should be doing what and for how long. The focus on biological parents in most western contexts is, to a large extent, driven by assumptions about the primacy of biological parenting. This could be justified by an evolutionary perspective that posits that biological parents have the greatest incentive to invest time in their children (Cox, 2008). From a demographic perspective, fertility decline in much of the world has been partly driven by a quantity-quality trade-off in children with time being a critical resource (Becker and Lewis, 1973). With smaller family size, parents have actually increased their time investment in their children (Gauthier et al., 2003). Even though most sociologists who have examined time use in the U.S. are neither biological nor demographic determinists, they, nonetheless, use a nuclear family as the normative model for examining time use patterns. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that all of the extant literature is limited to analysis of time use in child rearing by biological mothers and fathers. It also explains why so much of this literature has been limited to examining the effects of women's labor force participation and changes in family structure on only parental time use (Bianchi, 2000; Bianchi andRobinson, 1997; Hofferth and Sandberg, 2001). Interestingly, neither race nor class appears to play a prominent role in these findings (even though they are included as controls in models).

Ethnographic studies, on the other hand, present a different picture highlighting both class and race differences in models of childrearing. In her classic work on inequality and childrearing Lareau (2002) makes a distinction between a model of "concerted childrearing" that is followed by middle class parents, both Black and White, and a model of "natural growth" which is more characteristic of working class and poor families. A prominent feature of the "natural growth" model is the presence of extended kin in the daily lives of children. The critical role of kin in family life, particularly in poor Black communities, is the basis of Stack and Burton's concept of "kin work" (1993). "Kin work" refers to the distribution of time amongst kin for child rearing in order to keep the kin group functioning over the life course. …

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