Family Instability – Causes And Consequences

Causes And Consequences Of Family Instability : A Case Study Of Umuowa Community In Orlu Local Government  Area Of Imo State

Family Instability – Causes And Consequences

There are lots of institutions that make up the social system, but one that seems outstanding is the family, because of some vital functions, which it performs in the society.

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The family can be described as the basic unit, since it embraces all forms of interaction between individuals. Apart from the importance of the family to the members of the society, it serves as a semi-originator or controller of the existing institution in the social system, because without people who make up the society, there will be no existing social institution. The family provides the individual with an identity, with a social status and with economic well-being. The other institutions have only slowly emerged from the family and have for a long time been dependent on the family.

The family is universally regarded as the most sacred of the institutions and it is held so in the society. Similarly, Murdock (1949) postulated that such an institution is universally and functionally necessary because it performs those primary functions fundamental to human and social life. Without the sexual and reproductive functions of the family, society cannot continue to exist, and without the economic function, it will not be sustained and the lack of education will hinder the transfer of culture.

Family instability has become a thing associated with the contemporary family institution. This however, is not to say that it had never once occurred in family situation of the past but that the rate at which it occurs in our present society is quite alarming. Little (1973), posits that the rate of divorce in town depends on economic situation. He noted that in Ibadan, rich traders entice people’s wives with their money. This is common in our contemporary family institution than before.

The problem of family instability can be traced to the rapid growth rate of urbanization and industrialization in Nigeria. The economy is growing and it requires a lot of manpower (both skilled and unskilled). This has aroused every member of the family to become one way or the other involved in the economic growth of the nation. The involvement of women in wage carrying is a threat in the family solidarity; couples hardly find time to stay together for interaction purposes. Child care which should be the responsibility of the parents is now shifted to the school and house helps.

There are also some social factors that affect the instability of the family. The idea of managing more than one wife might lead to an end of the family. The habits that either the wife or the husband is involved in extra marital affairs which is perpetuated by some men and some women might lead to an end of the family. The habits that either the wife or the husband is addicted to smoking or drinking also lead to family dissolution. Lack of trust in many families amongst the couples is wrecking marriages today.

Peer influences also threatens the family solidarity if care is not taken by couples. As a result of outside influences, irrational decisions are made to the detriment of one’s wish and this might lead to a marital crisis. Other factors such as education, illegitimate children, religion and infertility of the wife also initiate instability in the family.

Children of separated parents often bears the consequences of family instability. They always serve as the “scape goat” to the vices of either the mother or the father. The tension and hostility of unsolved conflict between parents often gets back to the child. There are so many boys and girls and even adults roaming about the streets, many are delinquents, vandals and touts while some are mutually disturbed because of family instability.

Though a lot of people are still contracting marriages in Umuowa but there exist a lot of single parents which is a product of family instability. The problem of family instability is compounding due to lack of support from local government authorities for both marriages and children form dissolved homes.



Family instability is said to be a social problem because it affects a significant number of people especially in modern times. The motivation for this study, stems from the ways and manner in which family instability has threatened the existence of the social structure as a whole. So many people see family instability as a villain at the root of our social problem, especially juvenile delinquency which eventually lead to criminal acts.

The institution of marriage is virtually universal in human societies. These institutions contribute immensely in holding people together to cooperate with each other and with other relations in the maintenance of household. The family is supposed to produce children and security to maintain procreation.

Ideally, marriage is meant to be permanent but we know that marriage in societies including Nigeria is becoming increasingly fragile and unstable. This research work is concerned with the mounting rate of family instability and its consequences.

The causes of family instability depends on the type of family each spouse is born into, in this case negative family pressures might quicken the breakdown of the family. The ethnic barrier might also make the parents call for an end to the relationship of the family. It should be understood that these factors are common in Nigeria because of its multi-ethic composition. Since we have different ethnic groups, people from Eastern region found it difficult to propose marriage to people from Northern Nigeria or West. This kind of marriage when proposed could be terminated by both parents because of distance, differences in language and dressing code.

Another cause of family instability is interference of extended family. Stole (1957), said that marriage is an exclusive association of two people, and that if the men and women who marry do not disengage themselves from their parents, they will invariably fall into divorce.

Low income places strain on marriage especially on the husband, failure to live up to expected role lead to family instability. A husband who cannot provide for the need of the family (financial responsibility) might make his wife to engage in a promiscuous act.

The aim of marriage is procreation and without it, marriage is incomplete. Therefore childless marriage are bound to experience conflict and family instability. Any marriage without child lead to family instability.

Click (1979), stated that the age of marriage is an important factor when considering marriage instability. He believed that people who get married in early age are emotionally immature and not in position to assume the responsibilities of the family.

The consequences of family instability according to Goods (1964), is that the absence of one parent makes it impossible for a single parent to be an adequate role model, therefore a child who is not given parental love, guidance and personal attention often develop problems that hinder the child’s growth.

Children from broken homes develop bitterness and hatred among themselves because of the foundation, which were laid by their parents. This may lead them to indulge in prostitution, armed robbery e.t.c.

May (1975), said that many delinquent acts, could be traced to broken homes. He said that many types of deviant behaviour are linked to disruption of good moral upbringing of the parents.

Divorce could inflict frustration on children and render them useless in life. The result of this factor leads to children becoming nuisance to the society if action is not taken to integrate them into the family.



1. Does addiction to alcohol of both couples lead to instability of the family?

2. Is the failure of married couples to bear children a reason for marital disharmony?

3. Is polygamy a reason for family instability?

4. Do extra marital affair of the couples lead to marital instability?

5. Is it true that parental influence on the couples lead to family instability?



The objectives of this study are to identify those factors associated with family instability, which are as follows:

To throw more light on the possible effects family instability has on the entire social structure. To highlight the best ways to avoid family disharmony. It is also to make probable recommendations on issues of family instability based on the outcome of the research. These objectives will be pursued with the help of field data and the literature review. It is in the light of these that the study will sought to find out facts about family instability.


One of the reasons people get married is that they have needs they seek to satisfy. Part of the needs that couples seek to fulfil in marriage include the following:

The needs for companionship and intimacy, the need for security, emotional security, financial security, recognition and acceptance of the society among others. Marriage is successful to the extent to which the husband and wife are mutually satisfied and both are able to fulfil their needs according to expectations. The unsuccessful marriage or unstable families are the ones in which the needs and expectations of the marriage are not met, which resultantly lead to family instability.

In this study, different categories of people will be benefited which include academia, government, individuals e.t.c.

For academic purposes, it will serve as literature review for students and researchers that want to further on this topic.

This study will also enable government to embark on programmes and also take adequate steps that will help in eliminating family instability.

Finally, it will help individuals to handle and take care of their families even when they are finding it difficult, since understanding is the best solution to problems.



1. Cases of Childlessness might possibly lead to family instability.

2. Cases of extra marital affairs lead to family instability.




This is a group of two or more persons related by blood, or adoption, marriage and residing together.


This is a means of reproducing its members and ensuring generational replacement.


This implies to the period when the marriage institution is threatened as a result of conflict in the value that guide the institution. It is the same as family instability.


This is when the husband and wife ceases to stay together and stopped being recognised as husband and wife.


This is when the relationship between the husband, wife and their children, which make up the family is intact. It means when there is peace in the home.


This is ether a husband or a wife.


This is the outcome of a broken home. This is when either the father or the mother solely caters for the upbringing and well-being of the children. The father or mother plays the roles of both parents alone with his/her children.


This is the marriage of one man or woman to more than one partner.

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This is the marriage of a man to two or more wives


This is where a woman has more than one husband at the same time.


This is the same thing as marriage. This is a home of a married couple with or without children.


This is children or child that have lost his/her biological parents and is being taken care of by another parent(s).



Umuowa community in Orlu came to being from the creation of Imo-state in 1976, though all the communities that make up Orlu local government area have their history and ethnic group, but they still share so many features in common apart from indigenous titles and boundaries.

The original Umuowa was made up of such towns like Okwu, Umubu, Umudaduru, Umuojiinma, Ujah, Umuogu, Umudim, Umuezukwe, Umuokwaraebika, Odoejeku. The major occupation of Umuowa is subsistence farming and some establishments such as First Bank of Nigeria PLc, Nigeria Immigration Training School, Cooperative School, Health Centre, Umuowa Library, Mawatec Industry e.t.c. The nature of the occupation and the social economic status of the people in relation to the existing family structure has changed as a result of the awareness created by the influx of travellers from major cities like Owerri, Aba, Onitsha. Many people now turn to security men in the banks, gardeners , cleaners to the industries available.

Trading became one of the major occupation of Umuowa to provide services for the migrants and for the increasing population of the Umuowa community. Umuowa people practice monogamous system of marriage because of the predominance of the Christian religion marriage institution previously facilitated marriage stability and it has impact in maximisation of street or village gangsters among youths, for instance before a marriage is ever contracted, enquiries are made to both family background. Civilisation disrupted traditional social pursuits by extending interest of people. The social conditions in which children and people operate to a larger extent determines their behaviour. Regular attendance to movies and reading comic books are proven to be highly associated with street or village gangs among youths. We also practice new yam festival and Okonko festival which are our main cultural trait.





Family instability has become a problem associated with contemporary family institution and the rate at which it occurs in the modern world is very alarming. In a study on causes of divorce or separation in contemporary West Africa societies, Oke (1984) discovered that infertility and battery is a ground for divorce. But to Wells (1975), adultery does not really lead to family instability, in that, it is rarely used as a legal ground for divorce, and indicate that adultery is involved in less than 20 percent of broken homes.

Further studies carried out by Wells (1975), indicated that adultery is more often the symptom of a sick marriage or even an indication that a marriage has already gone through the process of disintegration.

The UNESCO (1986) Courtier said, regarding the situation in Europe that since 1965, there has been a big increase in the number of divorces throughout the continent, and also there has been an increase in the number of single parents and their resultant families with evidence that something is radically wrong with the family and it can be found all over the world.

Shindi (1986), in a study said paternal and maternal losses are on the increase worldwide. In the United States of America, for example, approximately 12 percent of the families are single parents. With the findings of Shindi, it does not mean that parental loss only implies the death of a parent.

Bowlby’s (1986), findings shows the tendency to think that parental loss is only through death, but there are several ways apart from death by which children no longer live with parents and are permanently separated which includes separation, divorce, institutionalisation e.t.c. All these bring about a sense of loss in the child, about his/her parent.

Coleman (958), in his contribution explains that the high rate of divorce is not because people make foolish choice during their marriage, but because they allow issues that do not really matter to be their binding factor, and consequently any of the party could desert the other unceremoniously.

Stole (1955), explained that marriage is an exclusive association of two people and that if the men and women who marry do not disengage themselves from their parents, and friends, they will invariably fall into divorce. He further warned of the interference of relatives which he said lead to divorce. He is of the opinion that couples must finance their marriage and try to achieve independence as much as possible.

Little (1973), discovered that the rate of divorce in towns depends on economic situation. He noted that in Ibadan, rich traders entice people’s wives with their money. He asserted that this act by the rich traders has resulted in widespread divorce. In his own contribution, Hart (1976), said that the factors which must be considered in the explanation of marital breakdown are those which affect the degree of conflict between the husband and wife, those that affect the value attached to the marriage and those that affect the opportunity of the individual to run away from the marriage. In other words, Harts was emphasising on couples to adhere to the norms and values that regulate marriage, and that if this is not adhered to, the possibility of broken home is assured.

Haralombos (1980), observed that there is a relationship between income and marital breakdown and says that low income places strain on marriage especially on the husband who has failed to live up to his role as a father, husband the breadwinner of the family.

Southal (1957), advanced various reasons that can cause family instability. These reasons according to him includes – infertility on the part of women, inability to adequately support one’s wife, drunkenness and physical cruelty (wife battery) without justification, parental interference in private affairs of the couple and false account of one’s financial position to the wife.

Oke (1984), reported that causes of divorce also include failure to live up to expected roles, a husband who cannot provide for the needs of the family (financial responsibility or a wife who is too lazy to look after the house and take care of the children).

In the same study, Oke (1984), also saw quarrelling as a reason for divorce or separation in a contemporary West African society. He pointed out that quarrelling between the two spouses or with the relatives, his friends or her co-wives might find this leading to divorce.

According to the book “The secrets of families” quoted in the October 1994 edition of Watchtower Magazine”, at times attention and energy devoted to meeting the demands of work can also be a subtle enemy that erodes marital commitments. Also in the same magazine, the work place is seen as undermining family harmony. Many workers whom the magazine reported are drawn into illicit affairs with co-workers, still others become caught up in a vain quest for success and sacrifice their family life for career advancement.

In a similar study, Booth et al (1984) wrote on the effects of a wife’s employment on the marriage relationship; they found out that dual earner marriages do tend to be less stable than those with single earner.

Oke (1984), wrote on the importance of the other women to family instability. He concluded that among younger couples, particularly among the wives whose husbands are affluent, is an important reason for tensions in the family. These other women whom a generally single, young in age, promiscuous and independent are becoming menace as they pose a big threat to family instability in West African society.

Otite and Ogionwo (1979), equally contended that some of the causes of divorce ranges from childlessness, cruelty, infidelity to impotency. They also observed that women commanding more resources tend to make them win more power and influence. This they said easily enable to pay back the bride wealth without the knowledge of their parents.

Dike (1986), stressed the economic undertone of marital instability. According to him, the Nigerian civil war brought some changes to the Igbo’s culture in marital expectations. Immediately after the civil war when anomie in the Durkheim concept prevailed, many young wives were enticed away from their husbands by the rich people. He further said that in Igbo land, poor maintenance of wife, where a man neglects his responsibilities to his wife is a contributing factor in marital instability. The neglected wife may decide to quit and re-marry instead of being subjected to emotional and economic torture.

Aguene (1998), said that, for many traditional people, the aim of marriage is procreation and without it, marriage is incomplete. In begetting offspring the ruralities therefore, avert the threat of extinction of one’s lineage which is considered a calamity in all rural societies. Therefore childless marriage are bound to experience conflict in most cases.

Physical deformity can cause divorce because of non-performance of several duties. This breeds jealousy because, the partner who is now physically deformed may not allow the other partner to go out.

Finally, disorganisation is a universal phenomenon which cuts across most cultural settings but different environments have some distinguishing reasons, while some causes are generally applicable to most societies.


Having written a comprehensive literature on the causes of family instability, it is also important to write a detailed literature on the probable effect of broken homes and unstable families have on the child, family and society just to accomplish this study or to satisfy the purpose of this study.

The tension and hostility of unresolved conflict between the parents are projected on the child. This is because the family is the place where the child is first socialised in preparation for the larger society and any family instability and faulty socialisation process in the family will affect the child’s subsequent relationships in the society.

Becker and Hill (1942), in their study, carried out on marriage concluded that we enter marriage with some expectation and if reality falls short of them, dissatisfaction follows. This can well be anticipated to conflict theory, in that, conflict in a marriage situation may arise from role differentiation.

Children do not have a particular stage in their life by which they can easily handle or escape the wrath of parental separation. On an article titled “help for children of divorce”, written in June (1995) edition of Awake magazine; it was pointed out that older children handle divorce little than younger ones. When adolescents witness their parents divorce, they may suffer a deep disillusionment that bitter their view of marriage and other institutions such as school. Some conclude that all relationship is unreliable, deemed to unravel someday in betrayal and infidelity. Some teenagers will go to the extremes when their parents divorce. Some turn to drugs, some descend to sexual promiscuity, some run away from home, and others turn to criminal acts.

In analysing the effects of broken homes, Donil (1993) in the article “Socio-legal consequences for child abuse,” posited that the divorce of child’s parents and the broken homes environments, are contributing factor in the problem of child abuse and neglect. A child may be emotionally abused by the mere fact of the divorce and may become neglected due to diminished parental care. All these usually affect the child adversely throughout his childhood or even beyond. He concluded by saying that some cruel step mothers would not hesitate to abuse children of the estranged or former wife.

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In accessing the social consequences of family instability, some have compared the behaviour of children from intact homes. In a study in Awake magazine April (1994), edition titled “Help for children of divorce”, children of divorce were said to have high rate of delinquency and anti-social behaviours than those children from intact families, and the rate of admission of children of divorce to psychiatric hospitals may be twice as high as for children of intact families. It can therefore be asserted that divorce is the most leading cause of childhood depression.

Similarly, a national youth survey that was carried out in the United States of America in (1992), found out that youths from unstable families were more delinquent or had more delinquent acts within the society than youths from intact homes, it was also found that more than half of the offenders in that survey were living with a single parent.

Nobb’s (1984) statistics also indicated a close correlation between the increase in divorce and the increase in juvenile delinquency.

Nye (1968), found a small but significant difference between youths from broken homes and unbroken homes, he contributed to the loss of control over the children in single parent families and confusion where a step-parent is introduced into the home. He however made one striking discovery, that there is less delinquency in broken homes than in the unhappy homes. This led him to make the suggestion that happiness was found more closely related to delinquency than in the formal family status.

Nobbs, (1984), found evidence to suggest that rates of crimes amongst young people, and alcoholism amongst the middle-aged, which are likely to be higher among those from unstable families. In the study, he discovered a natural sequence resulting in people from unstable homes entering themselves into marriage which will later break up. The families itself have been regarded as a target in divorce. This can be measured in the effect broken homes have on spouses involved and the harmony in subsequent marriages that either or both of the spouses later engage in.

Nobbs (1984), posited that marital breakdown are rarely taken lightly by the spouses and it usually bring in its trait a greater deal of personal distress.

According to Kenneth Little (1958), cooking of food has a significance especially here in Africa. Any refusal by the wife to cook would not be taken kindly, for cooking by a wife is taken as a virtue.

Lloyd P.S. (1959) argued in his study of family instability among women in Africa that personality and economic factors are the function of family instability. In this claim, he was of the view that when a woman contributes more to domestic affair than the husband financially, then such a woman would assert for autonomy or independence. In a situation like this, the woman could initiate instability in the family. Instability of a home constitutes an official social recognition that the marriage is failing.

Nobbs (1984), posited, by stressing that one of the spouses usually suffers more than the other, the spouse who is emotionally involved, may feel that life without a spouse is not worth living. This is a loss of self esteem resulting from feeling of shame and guilt in family failing to live up to normative pattern of marriage as recognised by society.

Dike (1986) noted that divorce could inflict frustration on children and render them useless in life. He maintained that the result of these factors lead to children becoming nuisance to the society.

Russell (1983) identified that children suffer a great deal from divorce, they get nervous disorders and various kinds of upsets of one sort or another. They feel that they are living in a dangerous world. Furthermore, he said that it fills them probably first with horror, then with a kind of indifference and later on with an impulse to initiate.

Goods (1964), said that the absence of one parent makes it impossible for single parent to be adequate role model, therefore a child who is not given parental love, guidance and personal attention often develop problems that hinder the child’s growth.

Marculey (1974), said that the strain of separation, loneliness on the part of divorced mother coupled with a deep sense of failure make her nervous, and tend to overprotective, thereby giving the children opportunity to show problems in their behaviour.

Children from broken homes develop bitterness and hatred towards parents. This may lead them to indulge in prostitution, armed robbery or even street fighting. It may create financial problem, which makes it difficult for the good upbringing of the children. It leads to frustrate children and misdirect their destiny if adequate care is not taken.

Otite and Ogionwo (1979) emphasised that parents are the most important agents for the child at the very early stages of his development. They further said that family as a representative of the larger society is the place where the child learns the real behaviour patterns, values, attitudes, norms e.t.c of the society. Therefore, any form of disorder in the family will obstruct a child from gaining these advantages.

The relevance of all these studies lies in the ability to direct our mind to the various factors which causes and affects family instability.


The application of sociological theory to a social research serves to explain as will as provide the foundation upon which the study is to be build. There are different kinds of theories in sociological framework. They include:

a. Conflict Theory

b. Social Exchange Theory


Conflict is a constant thing that occurs in any society whether large or small, in other words, this theory is the most relevant in this research on the reasons for family instability. The conflict theory implies that people enter into social relation in pursuit of their own interest to extract as much from the relationship as possible. The family is often a management of conflict between a man and a wife.

Dahrendorf (1959), suggested that conflict of authority is primarily embedded in relations, but when members of the relation recognise their separation interests, then the probability of conflict in a relationship becomes higher. Family disorganisation might arise if the wife realises that her husband is pursuing a selfish interest in the family set-up and if she finds it difficult to achieve her own personal needs and aspiration in the family.

Coser (1956), in his work on functions of social conflict, said that internal conflict in which the contending parties no longer share the basic values upon which the legitimacy of the social system rest threatens to disrupt the entire structures. In a situation where the basic value upon which the solidarity of the family rests is no longer shared, then the family stands a chance of being disorganised. When there is conflict of values in the family between the husband and the wife, then the solidarity of the family becomes threatened.

According to Maciver (1950), in his theory called “what I love, you hate’ based on conflict and unlike attitude, conflict in the family may develop as a result of difference in the attitudes and interest of both the husband and wife which may eventually lead to family instability.

Maciver (1950) also proposed another theory called “what I want you want” based on conflict and like interest. There is co-operation when interest is shared but conflict arises when interest is individualised and exclusive. Since there is a scarce supply of authority within the family, then it may cause instability when the wife sees herself as being equal to the husband because she occupies the same economic position with her husband in the social system and believes in women liberation.

According to another theorist, Harts (1976), instability of family is the result of cruelty, sexual failure, mental cruelty, incompatible traits and failure to adjust behaviour in the appropriate ways. In the Lagos Weekend of January 14 (1992), it was reported that an accounting officer with the Nigeria Ports quit with his wife after thirteen years divorce petition, he filed against his wife, he alleged that his wife was wicked, provocative and adulterous. She was also alleged to have deserted her matrimonial home without her husband’s knowledge. Making his case further, he also alleged that his wife was in the habit of going out to drinking spots only to return home to start dangerous quarrels. He claimed, he has not seen the wife for about a year. Delivering judgement subsequently, the president of the Muslim customary court granted the couple a divorce.

According to Gerald Leslie (1973), many people are disillusioned about marriages because of the fact that what they expected did not come to reality. We do not expect life to be all sunshine and roses or even without its conflict and setback.

Since conflict is the struggle over limited resources, because, if resources were infinite there would not be the problem of dividing them up so that all parties would feel they had enough. Both farmers in an area with abundant rainfall are likely to engage in conflict over water supply.

Coser (1966), raises the question, if conflict unites, then what tears apart? He was saying that conflict has the potential of being cohesive (holding social groups together and bringing benefits), we are not denying that conflict


also has the potential of being divisive. Conflict can bring about the dissolution of alliances including marriage. If a husband and his wife tries to resolve conflicts by continually resorting to non-legitimate power, feeling of exploitation, discontent and distrust may be generated.

Wolfe (1960) found out that only a very small percentage of their respondents specified several conflict as their major trouble area. Perhaps folklore, movies, the popular press and reports of case studies by marriage counsellors and sex counsellors have combined to present an exaggerated picture of the part sexual disagreement plays in marital conflict and family instability. Wolfe may have a point in saying that there may be an under reporting of sex problems as the major area of family instability. While there is no denying serious conflicts over sex do occur in some marriage in general, other disagreement are of far more concern. Money and children continue to be the main issues over which there are mental conflicts.

Conflict need not and often does not result to violence or break-ups. However, in some situation, persons may resort to violence when it seems there is no other way out.

According to William Goods (1971), when spouses begin to feel a continuing imbalance between investments and payoffs in the daily exchanges of family life, they may engage in conflict over this imbalance, for various reasons, they may feel they cannot take one of the other roads usually open in such a situation (escape, submission). As a result, conflict can escalate to the point of violence because no simpler or easier measure or resolution emerges.

According to Coser (1956), whereas conflict necessarily changes the previous terms of the relationship of the participants, mere hostility has no such necessary effects and may leave the terms of the relationship unchanged. To renegotiate, bargain or even engage in actual conflict is like the safety valve on a boiler, “letting off steam” keeps the entire mechanism from exploding (Blau 1864).

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According to O’Brien (1971), conflicts in marriage, whether about money or children or anything else may be settled amiably through negotiation or they may lead to a break-up of marital relationships. Sometimes however, they explode into actual violence, a possibility that until recently has often been overlooked by researchers, perhaps because of the touchiness and unpleasantness of the subject and the common belief that violence only occurs on occasions in abnormal families.

Coser (1956), emphasises that since primary relations tend to involve the total personality, feelings of intimacy are strengthened; sharing all aspects of life make people being close to each other. However, such intimacy has the potential of bringing hate as well as love. But since conflict is usually considered bad and disruptive for primary relationships, deliberate efforts are made to avoid it. So, suppression of conflicts often result to the accumulation of hostilities. And any eruption of these feelings are likely to have great intensity both because persons in primary relation are totally involved in one another’s lives and because the hostile feelings have been grown to huge proportions by not having been allowed expression earlier.



This theory was propounded by Homans George (1961). This theory implies interaction between two or more individuals or groups. Social interactions is also exchange relationships. Two persons are in exchange relations when one gives or receives gifts, services e.t.c from the other.

In this exchange theory, I understand that husband and wife are expected to receive good services from each other. When the services are not rendered appropriately, problems will arise. People also exchange greetings, good deeds e.t.c, while living in societies. In the same manner, money and commodities change hands in the market and daughters are exchanged for bride wealth between two social groups during marriages.

Why conflict theory is chosen in this study, is because family performs those primary functional fundamentals to human and social life, so without the sexual and reproductive function of the family, society cannot continue to exist and without economic functions it will not be sustained. People get married because they have needs and expectation to satisfy. When these needs are not gotten, conflict will arise, which destabilises the family. Family performs very important protective functions for the well-being of its members to ensure stability and this will make children not to be involved in delinquent acts. When couples are not satisfied to the expected needs in the family, conflict occurs. This is only why Karl Marx said that conflict is inevitable in every society and also institutions.





The methodology adopted in this research was based on survey, which is popularly used in social research. The researcher adopted self-administered questionnaire method to collect information from the respondents. The questionnaire printed was for married men and women who have experienced family instability. The researcher used or adopted a purposive random sampling method which gives every member of the population an equal chance of being selected.

A structured open-close-ended questionnaire method was adopted by the researcher. This gave room for expression of the elements opinion. The hypothesis was tested with the use of chi-square test. The researcher also based her analysis by the use of tables.



The scope of this study is to shows the demographical population in Umuowa community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. The population of Umuowa according to 1991 census was 5,500. The inhabitants are predominantly farmers. The town has good social amenities such as good road network, hospitals, schools, electricity, Banking services, recreational centres e.t.c.

This work is limited to married men and women in Umuowa community. There are some limitations due to time and financial constraints. The researcher found it difficult to identify the married men and women due to their young age.

The method of questionnaire administration to the respondents inconvenienced the researcher when going back the next day. The researcher was also faced with problem of non-chalant attitude or delay tactics in returning of the questionnaire by the respondents.



In this research, Umuowa community as the study area has her major occupation as subsistence farming. The total population of Umuowa community according to 1991 census was 5,500. The researcher selected/or targeted the population of the young and old couples in Umuowa community. The married people falls within the age categories of 25–30 years, 31-36 years, 37-42 years and 43 and above. These people are from different ages, sex, and religion. These ranges from all sorts of occupation within Umuowa community.


After the testing of the hypothesis, a number of findings were discovered. In hypothesis one, the researcher is able to trace a positive relationship between childlessness and family instability. This shows that failure by the couples in marriage to bear children lead to family instability. This was shown by the majority of response. This findings was confirmed by Aguene (1998), who said that the aim of marriage is procreation and without it, marriage is incomplete. Therefore, childless marriages are bound to experience conflict.

The second hypothesis said that there is a positive relationship between extra-marital affairs and family instability. Considering table 2e, a greater percentage of the respondents shared the opinion that extra-marital affairs of married couples can lead to family instability. Chi-square was used to test and analyse the hypotheses which was reflected in question (10) ten of the questionnaire which revealed that there is a relationship between extra-marital affairs and family instability. Therefore, the hypothesis states that the greater the degree of extra-marital affairs, the higher the rate of family instability is supported.




This work has attempted to identify, describe and analyse the causes and consequences of family instability. The survey was carried out with the use of primary data, from the use of questionnaire administered in the field and secondary data which was gotten from vital documents from the library, internet e.t.c. The sampling methods adopted for the purpose of this study was the simple random technique.

The family is made up of the father, mother, and their children, who possibly might be under one roof, which represents the home. The father occupies the position of the head of the household, while the mother is next to the father and she keeps the home affairs and mostly directs the children. The family enables the children to grow up and ready to play their parts in the society. The history of the marriage institution is the history of the family. Most families come into existence through the marriage institutions. But there are some exceptional cases where the family is instituted without it being linked to the marriage institution.

The study shows that family instability always occur when there is mostly misunderstanding in the values and when the spouses do not perform their duties to the family adequately.

The study revealed that failure by the married couples to bear children, which may be the fault of the man or woman could lead to marriage instability. Also, the mode of contracting marriage can be associated with family instability.

A reasonable percentage of respondents shared the opinion that extra-marital affairs of the married couples lead to marriage instability. The study also reveals that parental influence on the couples lead to family instability, judging from the respondents’ view.


As shown by the findings of this study, it has become imperative to know the cause and consequences of the family instability in Umuowa community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State. These are as follows:

Children from unstable family suffers most in society because they lack parental love, guidance, personal attention and therefore develop problems that hinder the children’s growth. Children from broken homes also develop bitterness and hatred. This may lead them into prostitution, armed robbery or even street fighting.

This study, carried out on family instability concluded that we enter into marriage with some expectation and if reality fall short of them, dissatisfaction occurs. The study indicated a close correlation between increase in divorce and the increase in juvenile delinquency.

The study also reveals that the stability of the home can be associated with monogamy while instability can be associated with polygamy.


The findings of this study suggest some ways in which family instability in Umuowa community and the entire society at large can be reduced or eliminated. To reduce the number of marriage break-up, there are a lot of remedies.

Government should make the divorce law stringent so as to discourage erring couples from bringing an abrupt end to the family at the expense of the children.

Local government authorities should organise programmes that will encourage marital stability on both television, radio, e.t.c. Such programmes should include guidance and counsellors, lecturers analysing the importance of marriage to the society and the diverse effects of broken homes.

Prospective husband and wife should have enough time in courtship. This will enable the couples to have a prior knowledge of each other before getting married. Most couples should also imbibe tolerance since it take tolerance to build a home. Couples should learn to adopt to the weaknesses of each other and women (wives) should realise that their husbands are not a perfect being, thus she should be able to understand the weak aspect of her husband and endeavour to cope with it

Women should also devote much of their time to their homes, since the harmony of the family rests solely on their devotion. We should learn to be satisfied with what we have and stop looking outside for what exist in other people’s home.

Marriage counselling and lectures on child development and care should be provided to assist couples experiencing difficulties in their families. Advisers should not mislead couples.

The contributions of my research work to Umuowa community is that, in order to embark on marriage, one should learn from those who are endowed with wealth of experience and happily married, since experience is the best teacher. The price of marital happiness is high but the value of the product far exceeds the cost. Therefore, the price of family stability consists of discipline, loyalty, dedication and insight of such nature that couple are able to blend their responsibilities harmoniously.

Lastly, couples should endorse God as the backbone of their family. This will tend to consolidate the inherent solidarity in the family. This issue of family instability is very difficult to eradicate since it is inherent in the system.

Family Instability – Causes And Consequences

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