Stepchildren and Stepmothers: Ethnographic Reflections from Uganda


  • Luca Jourdan Università degli studi di Bologna


Parole chiave:

Stepmother, Stepchildren, Children, Uganda, Africa


This article focuses on the relationship between stepmothers and stepchildren, based on field research carried out on two Ugandan families between 2016 and 2017. Both families considered are traditionally patrilineal, implying that in case of separation the father generally exercises guardianship over the children. As a result, his next wife or partner is responsible for the care of her husband’s children from the previous marriage, as well as those born from the new union. In a context of high fertility rates and widespread poverty, this situation can entail an enormous workload and responsibility for the new bride, often leading to a problematic and confrontational relationship between her and the stepchildren. By collecting and analysing childhood memories from two women, one of whom also fostered her previous husband’s children, the article attempts to shed light on the sociocultural and economic forces that shape the relationship between stepmothers and stepchildren. The life stories considered in this article are ordinary stories in contemporary Uganda, and in no way do I aspire to generalise about the psychological consequences that these relationships can have on children.






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