Extended Families: Here and There

“I miss the family, the extended family, because our culture is very much interwoven with the extended family.”
-  Nigerian immigrant

 "What I miss most about Guinea is the extended family structure. When I am at home, I feel safe. My children are safe, my wife is safe. Whether I am there or not, they will be taken care of. In America, I don't have that."
-  Guinean immigrant

Family is very important throughout Africa. Most people live in households that include not only the nuclear family (mother, father, and children) but also members of their extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on). 

In the United States, African families are much reduced compared to the extended model they would follow at home.  If African immigrants come to the United States with family members, it is usually with a spouse or children. In rare cases, grandparents may rejoin the group. Other newly arrived family members may stay in the household temporarily before they move on to form their own households.

 “I miss the weather in Eritrea, the family closeness we had. I am close with my brothers and sisters here, but it is very hard to keep up, with all the work and our busy schedules. I miss my family. Of course, the main thing is I miss my mother.”
- Eritrean immigrant on what she has lost

African immigrants extend their lives back across the Atlantic, remaining in constant contact with their extended families on the continent. 

You do not exist as a separate unit. You are part of a family so you support them whenever you can. I make sure that my younger sister at home has at least enough to keep food on the table and to buy clothes.”
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 Mauritanian immigrant

"One thing that is unique about Africans is that the extended family system is very, very important. If you make one thousand dollars this month, you try to send five hundred dollars back home."
- Nigerian immigrant

 

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