FAMILY LIFE
African society is traditionally organized according to kinship groups, consisting of all the descendants of one common ancestor. The concept of "family" encompasses a wide network of relatives, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces, and cousins. Care of sick, disabled or elderly family members is shared by the extended family. Many cultures are matrilineal. The mother's older brother is considered the male role model and primary caretaker. Cousins on the mother's side are considered brothers and sisters.

 Families are usually large, sometimes with ten or more children. Children are considered a symbol of wealth, and all births are cause for rejoicing. Despite the government's family planning programs, the average fertility rate in the early 1990s was 6.2 children per woman. That number is decreasing, particularly in cities, where it is more expensive to live and where people tend to marry at a later age.

In the past, most marriages were arranged by the family. This practice is less common today. When a couple marries, the man usually pays a bride-price to the bride's parents. He can demand his money back if the marriage ends in divorce. Couples may have more than one marriage ceremony. In addition to the traditional exchange of gifts between families, there may be a civil ceremony where vows are exchanged. Finally, the couple may have a Christian church ceremony. Wedding celebrations in rural areas involve singing, dancing and feasting, and may last for many days.

 Family roles are still very traditional in rural Congo. Decision-making, hunting and clearing the forest are tasks for men. Women tend crops, fetch water, prepare meals, care for children and do housework. They have not yet achieved equality with men in society. Women usually earn less money than men in similar jobs. Married women cannot open a bank account, accept a job, obtain a passport, or rent or sell property without their husband's permission.

  Did you know?
The naming of children is an important family event. According to custom, the name of a boy is chosen by the maternal uncle, while a girl is named by her mother or her aunts. Among the Kongo, newborn babies are not considered to be truly persons until they are named.
In villages and rural areas, houses are commonly built out of adobe or wattle and daub (a framework of woven sticks plastered with clay). They may have thatched roofs or galvanized iron roofing. Kerosene lamps are used for lighting, and water must be brought from communal wells or nearby rivers. In the cities, merchants and businesspeople usually live in bungalows with electricity and running water. Factory and office workers live in cheap, often crowded houses and apartments made from cinder blocks or baked mud brick. In Kinshasa, a city of 3 million people, nearly 80% of the population live in slums or squatter settlements, such as Camp Luka, on the outskirts of the city.