Gender over the Life Cycle

Puberty initiation rituals that used to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood for both men and women (Ottenberg, 1989) are no longer practiced in most Igbo communities. The introduction of formal education, now available to and desired for both boys and girls, has meant that school stages have become among the most important markers of life stage for children and adolescents. Most Igbo families now consider that young persons who have finished secondary school have achieved adulthood. However, traditional categories and roles of son/husband/father and daughter/wife/mother remain extremely important, and it is fair to say that, even now, marriage and parenthood mark the full attainment of personhood for both men and women. Both marriage and childbirth are celebrated with important social rituals, and though marriage ceremonies and child-naming rites are not explicitly about creating and defining gender roles, they certainly serve that function. For both men and women, the transition to elder status (not marked by any specific ritual, but usually closely associated with the achievement of grandparenthood) brings greater respect. In addition, in some ways, elder status mitigates more polarized expectations of gender roles that apply to younger people (e.g., older women are typically outspoken and older men are judicious and patient).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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