Parental and Other Caretaker Roles

Because cowives are often in competition for their husband's attention, they contribute to the idealization process of the husband by vying with each other for predominance. In this struggle, the children are often used as a means to an end—becoming the desired object of their husband's attention. This can be deliberate as well as unconscious. Because the wives focus their attention on their husband, their children, wanting to please both their mother and father, follow suit. By cultivating father adoration, a mother hopes to demonstrate her superior worth among the cowives. A mother instructs her children to love and cherish their father, while at the same time she strives to fulfill his expectations of her. This effort, along with the child's own desire to bond with the father, enhances the father's stature and esteem. The cultural emphasis on the spiritual and administrative authority of the father serves to promote family solidarity. It is in "the name of the father" that cowives and their offspring are told to suppress their rivalry and come together as a cohesive family unit.

In daily socialization there is an emphasis on corporal punishment (e.g., using the belt or stick on a child that misbehaves) and religious training. Women who live alone with their children tend to be more actively engaged in rearing them. Women living in plural families tend to prefer an obedience approach to child-rearing. There is an idealized ethos of "children are to be seen and not heard." Cowives care for each other's children. However, there is a tacit fear that a cowife might retaliate against another wife by punishing her children. Thus, a mother pays a great deal of attention to a cowife's treatment of her child.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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