The objective of this study is to pilot and assess the feasibility of a new survey instrument to collect data on kinship support for young children of single mothers living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. These children are disadvantaged by their precarious environment, characterised by lack of sanitation, limited health care facilities, congested and low-quality housing, and wide-spread unemployment and poverty. Children born in the slums of Nairobi are significantly more likely to die than children in the rest of Kenya. Moreover, high rates of premarital childbirth, union dissolution, and adult mortality result in a large proportion of children who are raised by single mothers. As in most African contexts, however, these single mothers are assumed to receive considerable economic support and childcare assistance from their residential and non-residential extended kin. However, kinship support is potentially declining due to three processes under way in many African contexts: 1) increased distance between children and extended kin due to high rates of female migration, particularly to informal settlements in urban locations;2) pervasive poverty which limits the ability of kin to provide support;and 3) transformation of views on marriage, women's roles, and family norms, with a greater reliance on conjugal bonds than kinship ties. As a result, we hypothesize that there might be enormous variation in the type and amount of kinship support that children of poor, urban, single mothers receive which, in turn, could put their health and well-being at risk. This hypothesis and the mechanisms underlying it have not been tested because of inadequate data collection instruments. Thus, we have three primary objectives in this project. First is to pilot a new survey instrument - the kinship support tree (KST) - to collet data on kinship networks and support in three domain: emotional closeness, childcare provision and economic support and record multiple indicators of geographic proximity to non-residential kin on approximately 500 children under the age of five at two points in time. Second is to assess feasibility of administering this instrument at multiple time points in a highly mobile population. Key markers for assessing feasibility of administering this instrument include: 1) time investment;2) financial cost;3) ease of administration;and 4) attrition. Third, is to assess reliability of the data collected and conduct exploratory analysis of the data. Multiple and repeated measures of both kinship support and geo-spatial data will be collected to assess reliability. Exploratory analysis will correlate our three indicators of support with selected geo-spatial measures and examine how support varies over time. By developing a new method of data collection, we will not only significantly advance our understanding of the amount and type of kinship support available to single mothers living in disadvantaged contexts in sub-Saharan Africa, but also make innovative contributions to the broader field of family demography and child well-being.

Public Health Relevance

Sub-Saharan Africa bears the highest rates of child mortality of any region, accounting for half of all child deaths worldwide. Kinship support is vital to these children's health and survival, yet measures of kinship support of highly vulnerable children living in urban slum areas of Africa are inadequate. Our study aims to develop a novel survey instrument to better capture the extent and limitations of kin support for these children with the ultimate goal of identifying which types of kinship support are most effective in protecting children's health.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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King, Rosalind B
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University of Maryland College Park
Schools of Arts and Sciences
College Park
United States
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