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Defining the household

The following functions are usually associated with the household:

  • co-residence
  • joint production
  • shared consumption and
  • kinship links.

However, human society is varied and complex and no definition of the household, however general, completely fits all circumstances. Guyer's (1980) definition of a household as “a particularly dense centre in a network of exchange relationships” acknowledges the fluid nature of the boundaries separating the household from the community of which it is a part.

A cultural component is inherent in the nature of relationships within the household. A strong tradition exists in Africa of separate economic spheres of activity for men and women, with considerable independence for each. But even in a traditionally patriarchal Asian society such as Bangladesh, economic forces affect the balance of decision-making power in the household. Women who bring in wage income have a greater influence on how the income is spent than do those who work only in the home (Alamgir, 1977).

Source: adapted from Rogers (1990).


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