An Ethnographic Focus on Family Dynamics in Ghana, West Africa versus the United States


  • Jalynn Stubbs Clark Atlanta University
  • Medha Talpade Clark Atlanta University



family dynamics, ghanaian culture, black american culture


The purpose of this study to explore and describe the family dynamics in Ghana, West Africa in comparison to those of African Americans in the United States of America. Analyzing these culture sharing patterns is especially important in the context of the historically black institution of higher learning, where African and American cultures intersect. Both groups, Africans in Africa and African-Americans in the U.S., will benefit from this research because this will bridge gaps in knowledge, making us a citizen of the world. I was able to travel to Ghana and immerse myself into their culture and for that short period of time, I was able to observe the differences in family dynamics in America versus those in Ghana. My research explores family dynamics in three sectors: Daily life, education, marriage/childbearing. Many components make these three overarching sectors. Both Ghana and America are countries going through changes with a diverse population that provides different perspectives and opportunities for the exchange of new ideas that can stimulate innovation and creativity (VanAlstine, Cox, & Roden, 2015). Research has been conducted to investigate the educational system in both America and Ghana and the different levels in which one can obtain a degree/certificate. Studies also explore the extent to which families in both Ghana and America value education. Marriage practices also differ in Ghana versus the United States and have changed many times over centuries. This study is important in that it explores these differences based on the lived experiences of the participants who are a part of each culture. In order to collect data, three focus groups were conducted among college students in both Ghana and the United States. Students who attended The University of Ghana, The University of Cape Coast, and students of the Atlanta University Center shared their lived experiences and their family dynamics. There were a total of 13 interview questions in order to explore daily life, education, roles/hierarchy, occupation, and marriage. All questions asked were open-ended, allowing the participants to discuss their experiences in detail. For example, “Describe the roles of men and women in your family” is a question that received extensive responses due to the fact that is was more subjective than objective. Atlas Ti revealed the following themes that arose from the analysis—meals, leisure activities, the value of education, attitudes toward premarital childbearing, and family roles among others. Validation strategies used are rich thick descriptions, reflexivity, and member checking. Understanding the daily lives and contexts of individuals in Ghana and in the U.S. has not been conducted systematically to date, and such an exploration is expected to help build a bridge of understanding and respect between the related cultures in addition to using best practices that will benefit the cultures mutually. 


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How to Cite

Stubbs, J., & Talpade, M. (2020). An Ethnographic Focus on Family Dynamics in Ghana, West Africa versus the United States. Journal of Student Research, 9(1).



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