Yes, single parent pandemic is serious and must concern us

No society can survive when the family unit is destroyed. [iStockphoto]

If what the President said about the rise in numbers of single parents in Kenya is true – and indeed it was evidence based – then there is every reason for us to be concerned.

The family as originally designed and intended consisted of a husband, a wife and their children. Anything outside of this is an abnormality that has been brought about by several factors, often beyond the control of those involved. There are many women and girls who have been driven into single parenthood by various extraneous factors. 

However, as the President pointed out, if the trend is not checked, it risks destroying the fundamental character of our cultural and social ecosystem. It is thus significant, and indeed commendable, that out of the many things that should have occupied the mind of the President in his final public ceremony speech, he singled out this issue as a matter of national concern.

The truth is that no society can survive when the family unit is destroyed. Like in any chain, our strength as a community lies in our weakest link. It is a fact and reality that even in our homes – especially in large families - the joy and strength of the collective whole is highly dependent on how stable each member is. Those that are not settled can be a major drain on the rest. Wise families therefore try their best to lift up one another to highest standards of living possible, so that that everyone is stable.

It is therefore in order that the President threw the gauntlet to Kenyans, and especially to the religious leaders, to take measures that will ensure that the Kenyan family remains the strong and respected institution that it has historically been. This is no mean task, especially in the times that we find ourselves in. We must identify key contributors to this unfortunate scenario and mitigate the same.

Whereas exacerbating factors are many, a few are worthy of our collective attention. Key among these are poverty, falling values, and social breakdown. Studies have consistently shown a strong link between poverty and illicit sexual activity. This is well understandable because sex has therapeutic effects and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

 “Progressive” women find marriage an unnecessary “bondage” that they cannot tolerate. [iStockphoto]

Thus, to weather the impact of poverty, women turn to sex for solace in a moment of fleeting love and men fall for a false affirmation of their manhood. Unfortunately, this satisfaction is often short-lived and readily becomes addictive. The outcome is unexpected children born outside of marriage, and often left in the care of single mothers.

The falling moral standards is another major contributor to illicit sexual activity. Children are becoming active from as early as twelve years, with many of them becoming mothers at teenage. Sadly, studies show that patterns of sexual behaviour formed during adolescence often influence behaviour in adult life.

Thus, when children do not have a sound moral foundation, it will manifest later in life, with sexual activity becoming an ordinary pastime. Those who have had multiple sexual partners at younger ages – especially men – tend to carry this into marriage. And hence the pervasive “mpango wa kando” syndrome. Such unfaithfulness inevitably leads to separations and divorces, resulting in many single parent families.

There is also the emerging trend among the elite in which “progressive” women find marriage an unnecessary “bondage” that they cannot tolerate. With good thriving careers and healthy incomes, they would rather have children without the oppressive yoke of marriage.

From the foregoing, there seems to be no simple answers. What is clear however, is that poverty is a critical plunk that must be tackled, to release people to a more positive living. Secondly, we must all work in concert to ensure that our children are set on the right path that would mold them into responsible parents.

Whereas, to mitigate teenage pregnancies and single motherhood, some have proposed such measures as condoms and reproductive health – read abortion, these are but superficial efforts that cannot take us far. Ultimately, we must work at building a strong moral foundation. Parents, teachers, and religious institutions should prioritise this. Otherwise, we have a serious pandemic in our hands.