Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Development and Family Studies

First Advisor

Ron Werner-Wilson

Second Advisor

Harvey Joanning


Research on African Christian marriage and family life has lacked a critical focus on the experience and meaning of marriage between husbands and wives as couples. The intention of this phenomenological investigation is to enrich the international family therapy field's understanding of the complexity and wider ecology (economic, religious, historical, feminist, educational) of African marriage and family life, specifically in the Christian population. Research took place at Makumira University College in Tanzania, a seminary of the Tumaini University system of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, interviewing students, faculty and their spouses in a variety of formats (couple, individual, and focus group interviews). Economic and educational changes and above all religious beliefs were detailed as powerful mechanisms for ordering and re-ordering of local ethnic traditions as well as respondents' self-understanding as wives and husbands and gender relations. Cultural practices such as parental choice of spouse, bridewealth customs, domestic abuse of women, and the legitimization of marriage through child-bearing are all undergoing transformation and in some cases rejection. The meaning of marriage as a relationship or "union in one flesh" between a husband and wife is taking priority over the expectations and obligations to the extended family, though duties and responsibilities to the wider family are still considered very important. Finally, this study identifies the feasibility and cultural relevancy of carrying out a marriage enrichment program tailored for Makumira University couples, with the intention of piloting such a program for use by Lutheran church leaders in the wider Tanzanian church.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Wayne L. Nieminen



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

255 pages