Cultural Comparison Project, Part Two

7 Commentsby   |  07.13.11  |  Accra, Ghana, Uncategorized

One of the more curious subjects for observation when traveling cross-culturally is the family unit. Families are integral to our lives and development; they are such a constant that we hardly ever stop to think what makes them “normal.” However, the ever present family unit looks and operates in vastly different ways in different cultures. When comparing the United States and Ghana, factors which contribute to these differences include the view of self, the level of industrialization, and the distribution of authority.

In the spectrum of the view of self, there reigns individualism on one end and collectivism on the other. Individualism is a type of the view of self which is highly independent and does not rely on surrounding persons. Collectivism, on the other hand, is a more communal approach to the view of self in which a person is more defined by who they are surrounded with. On the whole, the United States is a country in which individualism is valued. As a people, Americans value individuality, being unique, and entrepreuneurism. The idea of the American Dream is that everybody has the ability to “go out and make it on your own” and to follow their own idea of happiness. In regards to the family unit, individualism plays a major role. In America, it is custom for the parents to raise children who will one day go to college, get their own job, move out, and live on their own. The American conception of family is nuclear, rather than extended. However, in a community-centered country like Ghana, family as a cohesive whole is more important than the individuals within it. Together the individuals work and support each other, which creates a safety net for them all. Rather than the family catering to the needs of the individual, the individuals cater to the needs of the family. Thus, family units remain together, and there is less branching off and separation than there is in a country like the United States.

The level of industrialization also plays a large part in how family units operate. Ghana is a more agrarian state than America, which is incredibly advanced in technology and industrialization. Because of this, Ghanaian families tend to stay more local. Work is more physically strenuous and the value of manual labor is more appreciated. This agrarian state plays into collectivism because families must work together to support themselves. Children do chores not merely because they have been assigned them, but because they are necessary to the livelihood of the family. In contrast, the amount of technology available to families in the United States pushes them farther along the path of individualism. With the level of efficiency offered in the majority of America, there is less of a need for communal effort. There is more opportunity to be individualized in the United States.

Finally, the distribution of authority also affects how family units are shaped. In an American family unit, authority is fairly evenly distributed between the parents. Both have authority to make decisions, and much value is placed on gender equality in the United States. Additionally, families are often catered to the children, who may not have direct authority, but still have many resources given to them. Ghanaian families tend to be more paternalistic. Most of the authority lies with the father figure to make decisions. The mother is often in charge of the household, but in terms of how the public and culture views the family unit, the man will always have the final say. Also, families are not catered to their kids. Children are expected to contribute to the livelihood of the family, and, though admittedly my population pool may be biased, I have yet to meet a spoiled Ghanaian child.

When comparing the types of family units in the United States and Ghana, it is difficult to say whether one is superior to or better than the other. In truth, both have their strengths and weaknesses: the individualism which is rampant in American families can isolate individuals and weaken community development, while the collectivism of Ghanaian families can hold back individuals who have the opportunity for further education or advancement. To conclude, one system of family is not necessarily better than the other; rather, the two capitalize on different sets values. The value of connectedness, group unity, and working as a part of a whole which are learned in Ghanaian families are values which are just as important as individuality, independnence, and uniqueness that are learned in American families.

7 Comments

  1. UK49s Predictions
    9:52 am, 01.03.22

    good work keep it up!

  2. jack nelson
    8:40 am, 01.23.22

    A very interesting comparison of the American and African families, indeed industrialization plays an important role, as well as the standard of living and scientific progress. I am interested in geography and anthropology and I am interested in learning about life in African countries. I am writing about this essay, and professional writers from best ghostwriting services helped me find unique information about Africa, they will also help me write my essay.

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