A Closer Examination of Family Group Decision Making in
members with material needs such as land, shelter, and food, but it
also ensures each member has adequate psychological support.32
Likewise, the African family unit is a central and important group in
Ethiopia, a country with a long history of social and biological
B. Tribal communities in Ethiopia
Ethiopia, a country of over 73 million, is made up of 260
ethnic groups or sub-groups, speaking over 200 languages or
dialects.34 As in most traditional societies, provision of care to
orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children has long been seen as
the duty of the extended family system within most of the ethnic
groups in the country.35 Under Ethiopia’s diverse and eclectic
cultural setting, orphans have been well looked after and integrated
into extended family households,36 with each ethnic group preserving
its own unique customs and traditions. Thus, the overall survival of
the extended family and larger ethnic clan depends on each
individual’s livelihood and productivity.37
One theory pertaining to the capacity and sustainability of
extended family households in Ethiopia argues that even in the
33 Tatek Abebe, Ethiopian Childhoods: A Case Study of the Lives of Orphans and
Working Children 1, 5 (Jan. 2008) [hereinafter Abebe, Ethiopian Childhoods]
(unpublished Ph.D thesis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology) (on
file with author). Biological orphans refer to the biological status of a parent,
compared with social orphans who have been abandoned, mainly due to poverty.
See Tatek Abebe, Orphanhood, Poverty and the Care Dilemma: Review of Global
Policy Trends, 7 SOC. WORK & SOC’Y INT’L ONLINE J., no. 1, 2009,
34 INVESTING IN BOYS & GIRLS IN ETHIOPIA, supra note 1, at 5; SAVE THE
CHILDREN, CHILD SITUATION ANALYSIS FOR ETHIOPIA 4 (2004) [hereinafter CHILD
SITUATION ANALYSIS FOR ETHIOPIA], available at
35 IMPROVING CARE OPTIONS FOR CHILDREN IN ETHIOPIA, supra note 6, at 23.
36 Abebe, Ethiopian Childhoods, supra note 33, at 8.
37 See generally Abebe & Aase, supra note 4, at 2066 (describing the cause-and-effect roles of contributing children who actively participate in household
production and reproduction activities).