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The roles and responsibilities of the father (husband) in a West African setting

Couple, African, Love, Man, Woman
In many societies of the world, men have certain responsibilities placed on them as the leaders, front role players or bread-winners of the family. In Africa and in fact in West Africa, the ability of the man to carry out these obligations determines how the members of the family regard him and how much respect the larger society places him. The ability to take care of one’s family is an obligation that is considered to be primary in West Africa. A man who is unable to perform his role as a father is regarded as irresponsible. Some of the specific responsibilities and obligations of a father or husband are discussed in the paragraphs below.

Physical and financial needs
One of the major functions of a husband in most West African societies is to serve as the sole bread-winner. It is his responsibility to provide food or the money to do so. He is to ensure that there is a roof over the head of the family at all times. He has to make sure that the family is clothed. In addition, he pays bills such as electricity, water and internet connectivity if possible. As the head of the house, he has to make sure that the children are in school. This means he has to pay their school fees.

Socialization of the child
Another very important obligation of the husband is to ensure that the children are well brought up to fit into the norms and practices of the family and the traditions of the entire society. A father is considered as having failed if he is not able to raise good children. A wayward child is seen as the failure of the father.
Silhouette, Sorry, Forgive, Angry
Husband and wife quarrelling

Ensuring discipline at home
As part of the process of socializing the children, the father is responsible for disciplining the members of the household and making sure there is peace in the house at all times. This in many cases also includes the wife. A husband must ensure that the wife is well behaved, not quarrelling with other members of the neighbourhood, being disrespectful to the husband and creating troubles all the time.  It is the duty of the father to maintain law and order in the house at all times using the concept of reward and punishment. He rewards good behaviour and punishes bad conduct. He uses the carrot and big stick approach where he is a father and a disciplinarian at the same time.

Play the part of a role model
Another duty of the father is to serve as a role model for the family. As part of his function to ensure discipline at home, he is expected to show the way. Children generally learn from their parents so they watch what the parents do and see it as the best way things are done. Good conduct from a father, therefore, is the surest way of ensuring that children behave well. A child who sees his parents always quarrelling may think that is the best way spouses behave and might imbibe it into his or her psyche. The husband or the father is therefore expected to live a positive life that is worthy of emulation.

The power to discipline children is vested in the man. When a child misbehaves, therefore, the mother awaits the return of the father if he is not around that very moment and reports the bad conduct of the child to the husband. The husband is expected to punish the child. He may decide to just give a warning. A man who constantly fails to mete out punishment to an erring child is seen as a weak father. In West Africa, the rod would not be spared but in middle-class societies today, alternative ways are used to discipline the children. An example is to ground them for a period of time.

Woman, Happiness, Sunrise, Silhouette
Woman in a happy mood
Provision of the sexual and emotional needs of the wife
It is the expectation of the society that the sexual needs of the wife is met and this duty falls on the husband to perform. The reason is that this is the only way in which the sexual needs of the wife can be legitimately satisfied. A man who constantly fails to perform this duty could be reported to the elders of the family and he is expected to be called to order. Also when the woman is emotionally down, it is the duty of the husband to cheer her up and make her happy.

Attached to the function of providing the sexual needs of the wife is the ability to produce children. Though a husband does not have absolute control over whether he produces children or not, the society expects that once he gets married, he should father children. The primary aim of this expectation is to ensure the perpetuity of the society where those die and leave are replaced by the newly born.

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