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1.1   Background to Study

Marriage institution is found in all societies and has been an age long affair that started from Adam. The origin of marriage therefore is traced back to the Biblical story of God’s creation story in the book of Genesis.


According to Ponzetti (2003), in the United States and other western nations, marriage means a stabilized pattern of norms and roles associated with the mutual relationship between husband and wife.  In almost all societies, it entails a legal contract (written or verbal) and this contract varies in the degree to which it can be broken. Olayinka (1987) defined marriage as a social institution for the union of a man and his wife in body and soul.  It fosters the coming together of two totally different individuals with their personality traits as husband and wife to plan for their future and set up their own family.


We have different types of marriages as practiced in the world; Africa and Nigeria in particular.  These include monogamy – the practice of having one wife at a time; polygamy – marrying of more than one wife; Polyandry – when a woman has more than one husband and Bigamy – the custom where a man or woman marries another person while his or her marriage is still in existence. In Nigeria marriages can be contracted traditionally, by the customary laws.  It can also be contracted in the court registry – known as the ordinance or statutory marriage.  Lastly, marriages can be contracted in the church, which is known as Christian marriage or in the mosque, known as Islamic marriage. Osarenren (2005) observed that of all the types of marriages explained above, the customary and Islamic marriages are potentially polygamous while marriages contracted at the registry are absolutely monogamous. Marriages are contracted also for different reasons and from different backgrounds. Weiten, Lloyd & Lashley (1991) noted that a great variety of motivational factors propel people into marriage. The first among them is the desire to participate in a socially sanctioned mutually rewarding intimate relationship. Another key factor is the social pressure exerted on the single adults to marry.  The third reason is the popular view of people falling in love with each other.  Ponzetti (2003) on the other hand, outlined his findings to also include that marriages are formed to produce children as well as for economic security.  In summary, a multitude of motivational factors are involved in the decision to marry. Some of them are considered as ideal and others not ideal. Osarenren (2005) noted that many people marry for wrong reasons and as such have wrong attitudes toward marriage. These people tend to see marriage as something they can do away with if it becomes inconvenient.


Marriages are meant to last till death, or for life. It is meant to be “for better for worse, richer and poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part”.  But in practice, the situation is different, as many marriages are breaking up. Marital instability could be caused by a number of factors which include lack of respect, tolerance and understanding between couples, poor communication, third party interference, sexual incompatibility, financial difficulties, issues of religion and cultural practices and infertility.  These issues make marriage to be full of stresses and strains and can lead to break up if not well managed.


Researchers have confirmed that the attitude of couples towards marriage is very central to stable and happy marriage (Osarenren 2005). Attitude, therefore, is a major issue with regards to marriage stability.


Attitude has been defined by Anastasi in Okoli (2000) as a tendency to react favourably or unfavourably towards a designated class of stimuli such as national or ethnic group, a custom or an institution.  Attitude could be appropriate or inappropriate. Appropriate attitudes promote effective behaviour and feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment and happiness.  Inappropriate attitude promotes self-defeating behaviour and feelings of depression, anger, anxiety, shame and guilt (Okoli 2001).  Appropriate (positive) or Inappropriate (negative) attitude therefore has implication to marriage stability.  Positive attitude leads to a stable marriage, while poor attitude leads to marital instability.

The climax of marital instability is separation and divorce.  In Africa and Nigeria in particular other manifestations of marital instability include polygamy.  It is quite common for the Nigerian man to marry another wife or wives when he is faced with some serious marital challenges that tend to undermine his achievements or progress.  One of such major issues is infertility, which is fast becoming a trend among couples in Nigeria and other parts of the world.


Zanden (1989) described infertility as the term employed by the medical profession to refer to a condition in which a couple fails to achieve pregnancy after one year of having engaged in sexual relations with a normal frequency of about three or four times a week and without contraception.  It is of two types – primary and secondary.  Primary infertility is when a pregnancy has never occurred.  Secondary infertility is when there has been a previous pregnancy but a couple is unable to conceive again after one full year. Whichever, the case, both types of infertility can be devastating to a marriage. Infertility therefore has become a major challenge to the marriage institution.


The burden of Infertility is seen to affect every aspect of a couple’s life.  It is physical, psychological, emotional, financial and spiritual.  The very thought of childlessness alone leaves the couple with an associated feelings of rage, depression, self doubt, guilt and blame.  These negative feelings can also lead to inappropriate attitudes towards each other, which can also be extended to the people in their environment – relatives, in-laws, friends etc.


Inappropriate attitudes could lead to couples suspecting and apportioning blames to each other, or if medically, the person having the problem has been detected, the ‘okay’ couple could begin to lay blames and put unhealthy pressure on the partner.  It could lead to disrespect for each other, depression and isolation on the part of either of the couple. These may in turn lead to poor communication, which is a major key to a successful marriage.


On the other hand, appropriate attitude of co-operation, understanding, patience, faith etc, between the couples will always lead to peace.  As observed in the society, some couples are able to survive infertility challenges while others seem unable to do so.  Attitude therefore seems to be a major determinant factor in infertility and marriage stability.


  • Statement of Problem

Infertility is today a palpable problem in many families in Nigeria. Its negative impact on the peace and stability of the affected families is becoming conspicuously increasing everyday. This is evidenced by Andrew, Abbey and Halman (1993), who did not only observe that the effects of infertility on families vary from divorce, separation, quarreling and fighting to infidelity, etc, but also noted that the management of these infertility attendant problems by couples to ensure a happy stable marriage is a function of their attitude to infertility. On this same note, Osarenren (2005) opined that couples attitude to infertility as well as their marriage stability is dependent on their purpose of coming together in marriage, which is basically procreation.


Given the above diverse opinions, this study attempts to examine the attitude of couples to infertility and the effect of this attitude of theirs to marriage stability.


1.3.  Purpose of the Study

The objective of this study is to determine the extent to which marriage stability is influenced by:

(i) Couples’ attitude to infertility

(ii) Couples’ perceptions of infertility

(iii) Couples’ behaviour to each other during infertility.


1.4.       Research Questions

The following research questions are raised to guide the study.

(i)      Is marriage stability influenced by couples’ attitude to infertility?

  • Does the couples’ perception of infertility affect marriage stability?
  • Is marriage stability influenced by the behaviour of the couples facing infertility challenges?
  • Do couples differ in their attitude to infertility?


1.5.       Research Hypotheses

(i) Marriage stability is not significantly influenced by couples’ attitude to infertility

(ii) Couples’ perception of infertility does not have significant effect on marriage stability

(iii) Marriage stability is not significantly affected by the behaviour of the couples facing infertility challenges.

(iv) There is no significant gender difference in couples’ attitude to infertility.


  • Significance of the study

The findings from this study are expected to:

  1. help affected couples maintain the right attitude to infertility challenges.
  2. encourage the relations and friends of affected couples to maintain positive attitude towards them.
  3. create more awareness on the counseling needs of such couples.
  4. encourage the general public and society at large to appreciate the challenges of such couples and to sympathize with them by maintaining the right attitude.


1.7.  Scope of the Study.

This study is limited to establishing the effect of attitude of couples to infertility on marriage stability.  It is not concerned with determining the causes of infertility and does not intend to go into details on the cures or solution to infertility.

1.8   Operational Definition of Terms

The terms below are defined in accordance to the context and way in which they are used in the study.

Marriage – This refers to the relationship between two people who are statutorily, religiously or traditionally joined as husband and wife.


Stability – This refers to the condition whereby the couples’ psychological expectations for intimacy, understanding, communication and love are consistently met to a large extent in a marriage.


Attitude – This refers to the feeling of couples about infertility, which involves a tendency to behave in a certain way.


Couples – This refers to two people who are involved in a marriage relationship.

Infertility- This refers to the inability of a couple to achieve pregnancy after twelve months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.



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