Divorce Rates In Kenya And Means To Reduce Them

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Family is the essential unit of human cooperation, accommodating both generational renewal and individual linkage to the bigger society as it has been for a huge number of years.

We can therefore argue that Family is the most fundamental part of society. It is very important that it should be started well, so that the rest of the organization will follow suit. Most decisively, marriage is the locus of reproduction in Sub-Saharan Africa (Takyi.2001).

In my paper we are interested in the relationship between the institution of family and factors that may affect its prosperity, specifically divorce as a challenge families face.

But I cannot talk of divorce without mentioning marriage. Marriage as stated by Thomas (1995), is a social institution of matrimony, which has legal definition and rights regulated by the state and sanctioned in many religious traditions through special rites and ceremonies. In Kenya, the marriage Act notes that marriage is considered to be an optional and also a voluntary collaboration between a male and female whether in a polygamous or monogamous.

From legal and social-status perspectives, divorce is an event that moves individuals from being married to being single (Ahrons, 1999). From a family-systems perspective, however, contemporary researchers recognize divorce as a multidimensional process of family change.

As marriages continue to get less popular, divorce rates are increasing across the world. Though marriage is dependent on religion, family, culture, an individual behaviour, location, it is currently a stubborn global issue.

According to DE Paulo (2019) globally, in the nearly four decades between 1970 and 2008, the divorce rate has more than doubled, from 2.6 divorces for every 1,000 married people to 5.5. Those results are averaged across all the regions of the world that they studied.

In African society, marriage is considered a lifelong contract as it is looked upon as a permanent, social, and spiritual bond between a man and his wife, as well as their respective families, but in recent years Africa has witnessed a high rate of divorce as a result of urbanization and industrialization. Many Countries including Kenya have adopted more liberal divorce laws in the last two decades. Divorce has become a more practical option in newly formed families, since they now tend to have fewer children than in the past.

In Kenya today, divorce rate are lower than before. This is caused by the fact that people keep on postponing marriage mainly because of the following two reasons. The first reason is adopting cohabiting instead of marriage and the second reason the need and desire of pursuing higher education. This takes time and hence couples don’t prefer marriage.

Causes of Divorce

According to Dr. Odek People engage in divorce because of these reasons;

  1. Macro-level reasons
  2. Demographic variables and divorce
  3. Micro-level reasons for advice

One of the family theories that I would like to use to explain causes of divorce is the social exchange theory. It focuses on the quality and stability of mate selection and being able to remain in that marriage. The theory explains why an individual might remain in an unhappy marriage and used to guide in the investigation of divorce.

The theory makes assumptions about the view of individuals on divorce as either positive or negative outcome. Therefore based on this theory the effect of divorce may either be a positive or a negative depending on the individual. Thanks to our Professor Dr. Antony Odek who made me realise through our weekly class discussions that actually every coin has two sides. In our last class meeting our topic was about the late Bob Collymore, an outstanding CEO and family man.

At the age of 61 Bob had married three times, as he said in an interview. ‘’Each time it’s got better. Each time the match has been better.’’ In the study of divorce, alternatives are either to remain married or to divorce. To the late Safaricom CEO he chose to remarry thrice and at the third attempt he found the person whom he spent his life until when finally death took him.

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Micro-level reasons for divorce

Unrealistic Expectations

Applying social exchange theory to relationships, marital breakdown, according to Levinger (1976), is determined by a complex balance between how well each partner’s expectations are met, the attractions and barriers to maintaining or dissolving the relationship, and the perceived alternatives to leaving the marital situation. Contemporary expectations of marriage place a high value on meeting the somewhat ambiguous desires for mutuality, intimacy, happiness and self-fulfilment. Today’s marriages expect a balanced responsibilities between a wife and husband when it comes to caring for children or elderly parents, managing work demands, paying bills and doing household tasks. Because of these couples often argue and eventually conflict occurs.

Abusive behaviours and personality traits

A range of personality characteristics and behaviours attributed to oneself or, more frequently, one’s spouse, have been included as reasons for marriage breakdown. These personality traits are often in the form of alcohol and drug use problems, jealousy, dominance, immaturity, gambling, physical and emotional violence, and mental illness.

Financial problems

Concerns about income or insecure employment may underline some of the stresses and tensions in the relationship that contributes to its breakdown. Financial hardship can increase isolation, emotional stress, depression and lower self-esteem, which, in turn, can generate or exacerbate marital tensions. The way finances are handled in a marriage can represent underlying issues of power and authority in a relationship that may contribute to overall dissatisfaction.


Strong professional engagement and long workdays of men which results to lack of balance between work and family life is one of the primary reason for divorce. Work related demands and pressures that generate tension and stress may go unrecognised. However, they can spill over into family life in the form of lack of time, emotional and physical energy to invest in the partnership and children, which can lead to marital conflict and dissatisfaction.

Lack of Communication

Ineffective communication is a common problem which makes couples to fight and have difficulty in their marriages. Communication problem can lead to numerous family problems, including excessive family conflict, ineffective problem-solving skill, lack of intimacy and weak emotional bonding.

Demographic Variables

Age at marriage

Age at marriage is one of the leading factors in divorce. It seems that it is best not marry too young or wait too long before marrying. Marrying too young is destructive and has a tremendous impact in a relationship. Some youths are not experienced enough to face the realities of life. As a result, it is no wonder that the rate of divorce linked to youthful marriage is high.

Socio-economic status

Difference in financial resources, education and occupational status have been associated with problems in marriage and the reasons for divorce. Higher levels of education, for example, often equate with expanded employment opportunities and higher incomes which can provide greater personal resources, choices and opportunities.

Mixed Marriage

Mixed marriage refers to both cultural and religious differences among a couple. Each ethnic group in Kenya has a different culture and religious practice which requires couples to be cautious on ethnic differences when choosing to get married. It has been discovered that mixed marriage generally do not thrive, and therefore could lead to divorce.

Effects of Divorce

Ecological theory of child development can be used to address the effect of divorce.

Parental loss perspective to children

It is believed that a family with both parents living in the same house as the child, is a superior environment for children’s growth than is a single-parent family. The existence of two adults in the home permits parents to act as role models from whom children learn social competence such as co-operation, negotiation and compromise.

The child may face problems such as poor academic accomplishment, little self-esteem, and misconduct as a result of divorce.

Economic hardship

Economic hardship may harmfully influence children’s diet and health (Williams, 1990). Poor single mothers are not capable to afford private lessons, educational models, books, home computers, and other goods that assist children’s academic success. Limited income may also compel families to live in neighbourhoods where school programs are inadequately financed, services are poor, and crime rates are high.

Life stress

Just as divorce is known to be a stressful occasion for adults, it is also supposed to be stressful for children (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).

Stress creates distance between parents and children, hence leads school dropout, engagement in drugs and weakens child-parent relationship.

Ways of reducing divorce

The adoption of diverse strategies that makes it possible to mitigate against divorce harmful effects on children and parents should be adopted so as to place enable reduction of divorce in the society.

Parent education program

Adoption of parenting education programs would minimize on the diverse effects of divorce on children social development. The implementation of parent education programs that are designed to aid divorcing parents would ease both the trauma of separation and divorce to children.

Family mediation

The incorporation of a mediator to assist conflicting parties through helping them to identify burning issues would help to reduce misunderstandings thereby clarify priorities and expel emotions thereby possibly exploring new areas of compromise which can lead to possible solutions to inherent problems. This idea would enable cooperative decision-making among parents as well as their children.

It would also encourage parents to place their children priorities first during the entire process of divorce.

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