Matrifocal Families and Their 'Fit' in the Caribbean

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According to George P. Murdock (1949) the family is a social unit characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults. This was the universal, nuclear family view by functionalists; however Giddens 2009 mentioned the fact that a family could be a ‘kin’. On the other hand, though there isn't any clear consensus for the concept of a matrifocal family, it can be invariably defined as a family that is headed by the woman, she is the breadwinner of the home and if there is any male presence, it is marginalized. These families can be called mother-centered, woman-centered or headed and grandmother-centered. In 1937, the British Colonial Social Welfare Workers were sent to the Caribbean to fix the existing social problems of the societies and provide measures to assist. Thomas Simey (1946), was a welfare worker and postulated that one of the main problems were the fact that families were loose and children were fatherless, and they relied on the mother primarily. Lady Huggins, wife of the governor general of Jamaica in 1944-1945 proposed the Mass Marriage Movement which sought to marry off the consensually cohabiting adults or any relationship thereof. This proposal failed as the ‘blacks’ failed to understand and adhere to it. The matrifocal families are still persisting and present in Caribbean Societies especially in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Though there are other family patters prevailing in the Caribbean societies today such as nuclear families, extended families and sibling households, there is a fit between the matrifocal families and the Caribbean Society than any of the other mentioned family patterns, This family form prevailed according to Herskovits (1958)- Consequences of African Retention. Africans brought their cultural practice of polygamy...
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