Extended Family System In Igboland

The concept of extended family system is a recognized, well known age long practice in Igbo land. It is a practice where many relations, including distant ones, depend on other capable relations for upkeep, education, training, apprenticeship and general survival. It is a practice that has worked in Igbo land for long. It is a sort of multi-generational family. In Igbo culture, the core of the family is the nuclear family: the parents and their children, while additional relatives are considered extended. It is the type of family unit that has multiple relatives other than just the parents and their children living in the same household. 

It should be noted that the key characteristic of the extended family is that there are multiple adults in the family that are not parents of the children, though they may also have parent-like roles and share in the responsibilities for providing for the whole family one way or the other.

One of the advantages of an extended family system is the kind of security it offers to the members of that family. In an extended family, for example, members believe that they have people on whom they can count on in times of needs and even in times of trouble. One of the occasions on which the system helps a lot as large number comes into play is during funerals, weddings and other major events that require huge money and combined efforts. On occasions like these, the extended family helps in raising money, running the errands and generally in organizing the occasion to ensure it succeeds.

Another advantage of the extended family system is that it brings unity to the entire community. The blood relationship that exists among all the cousins, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, etc., brings about peace and this peace leads to unity that extends into the larger society. It has also been observed that in times of financial or emotional crisis, the wealthy members of the family render help to other not well to do family members. For instance, if a boy secures admission to study in the university and the biological father is in capable of paying the fees, a member of the extended family easily usually wades in to sponsor such a person. Also, a sister who is about to get married could get assistance in many forms from the members of the extended family to ensure that everything goes smoothly.

The extended family system in Igbo land comes to great play when a man dies leaving the children with no inheritance or support. In this case, the uncles and aunties and other members of the extended family could take over and raise the children on behalf of the deceased brother or uncle without the children going through much stress. This cannot be found in a nuclear family system.


The Igbo people do not play with their extended family as they usually have large and extended families who all gather together to celebrate during festival period. The Igbo ethnic group regards their extended family as the “Umunna”

Most Igbo people travels back to their hometown usually at the end of the year with their immediate family and join their extended families for celebration.