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SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHALLENGES FACED BY NEVER-MARRIED MOTHERS IN KENYA AND COPING MECHANISMS: A CASE OF ONGATA RONGAI IN KAJIADO COUNTY
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ABSTRACT

Regardless of the definition attached, the family is considered a first socialization agent which is fundamental in nurturing individuals. In the recent past, the understanding of family has taken on a meaning whose application is a reality is yet to be wholly accepted especially in Kenya. A single mother family is the new definition of family that experiences untold challenges including suspicious treatment and alienation of its members. Most of these challenges affect the socio-economic wellbeing of the family members.

The main objective of this study was to assess the situation of never-married mothers and provide an understanding of the challenges they experience and the coping mechanisms they employ against these challenges.  More specifically the study sought to identify and examine social and economic challenges faced by never-married mothers and to establish the coping mechanisms utilized by never-married mothers in dealing with socio-economic challenges in Ongata Rongai location in Kajiado County. Revelations from the literature review indicated that the never-married mothers especially those with a weak economic base, are a marginalised group and for this they face a number of challenges which inhibit their socio-economic growth. Three theories were used to ground the understanding of the study and these are structural functionalist theory to illustrate the choices made to remain unmarried in relation to societal expectations, symbolic interactionism to explain the endeavour of the never-married mothers to fit in the society and rational choice theory indicating the dilemmas they face in choosing to remain unmarried. The research design took a mixed approach which included qualitative and quantitative methods. The study had a sample size of 80 respondents and ten key informants. This was meant to enhance the validity and representativeness of the findings.

From the analysis of the findings, it was concluded that the women’s’ never-married state in Ongata Rongai had a direct impact social interaction and economic wellbeing in the area. The study showed that as a consequence of never-married motherhood, the never-married mother’s social interaction has been affected since they are treated suspiciously by especially married women who view them as threats to their husbands and sons. They felt insecure and limited their social interaction to those who would readily accept them. The study further indicated that the never-married mother’s decision to remain unmarried in Ongata Rongai was fostered by their lack of trust in men and lack of legible suitors as alluded in the literature review. The study further indicated that never-married mothers with an unstable economic ground face financial constrains following from the overwhelming parental responsibilities. This finding was backed by the report on the income levels.

Since never-married motherhood is a reality that cannot be addressed by stigmatizing those involved; The study recommended that, to reduce the socio-economic challenges faced by never-married mothers, government agencies and non-governmental organizations should engage in entrepreneurial empowerment to boost the income level of the never-married mothers and sensitizing the communities on the importance of family and laying strategies to cub the factors which promote the prevalence of never-married motherhood.

http://erepository.uonbi.ac.ke/handle/11295/9219