n Institute of African Studies Research Review - Helping them grow their teeth : care and conflict among the Dagaaba of Northern Ghana

Supplement 6
  • ISSN : 0855-4412



The Dagaaba of Northern Ghana are a patrilineal people who traditionally live in domestic groups comprising a core of agnatically related males and married women and their children. The concept of family (yir) for the Dagaaba includes all who are descended from the same ancestor and all are members of the lineage (yir-dem) (Bekye, 1991). Nukunya (2001) sees the lineage as a network of relations that connects an individual to relatives beyond the small close-knit conjugal family unit. However, as a result of change, more and more people are leaving the influence of this residential system resulting in the waning of their feelings of responsibility to their extended family members. Over the years, education, travel, contact with the cultures of other ethnic groups as well as many other factors of change have began to alter the traditional way of life of the Dagaaba. Not many researches have however been conducted into the extent of the changes that have occurred and their implications for the Dagaaba. What is noticeable however is the gradual erosion of the strong bonds of the lineage and the network of care that is associated with the system. An effect of the changing conditions of the family system is the strengthening of conjugal ties to the detriment of wider kinship ties (Nukunya, 2001:156). Oppong (1981) documented (among Akan dwellers in Accra) the conflict that may exist between kin and relatives who try to renege on their obligations. Many Dagaaba, who have migrated to the cities, the farming areas and the mines, are confronted with the pressures of demands of kin on resources they can ill afford to divert from their nuclear families. At the same time these same Dagaaba would like to maintain the traditional lineage based system, while wishing for change in the areas that most affect their finances (a case of having your cake and eating it?).

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