Social Institutions of the Family(Notes)

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The Social institution of the family
There are various types of Caribbean family forms. The emergence of the different types was largely due to historical influences that shape Caribbean civilization. Caribbean society has grown into a cosmopolitan mixture of different races and ethnic groups that construct their reality in the Caribbean. This mixture has resulted in a unique social system; plural, polarized, politicised, problematic, but still some what plantation society. This has impacted the type of family units that emerged in the region. The roles expectations by Caribbean society of mother and father coupled with the different socialization of boys and girls have influenced the many structural ways in which families are built and maintained in the Caribbean. This also affects issues related to gender construction in the family. The ever increasing proportion of matrifocal and common law unions are products of history as well as other social trends that are both local and international in scope. Family forms in the Caribbean

A family can be defined as a social unit of common residence involving two adults who are in a sexual relationship. Children of either of the adults, from both, or who have been adopted also form part of this family unit. The most popular family forms in the Caribbean are: • The family based on common-law union (consensual cohabitation) • The nuclear family

• The family based on a visiting union (extra-residential) • The matrifocal family
• The extended family
• The East Indian family
Other family types are sibling families due largely to migration of parents, and grandparent-headed families. What are the reasons for the existence of the various family forms in the region? Some theorists such as Melville Herskovits (1958) attribute the prevalence of certain types of Caribbean family forms to African society and some of the social institutions and social dynamics of those societies. The nuclear family

The domestic unit of husband, wife, and child or children is regarded by many people in the Caribbean as the ideal family structure that comes into being with the marriage of the partners. However where the nuclear family was established in the Caribbean, its existence as a small domestic unit did not always last very long, even among the middle and upper classes in these societies. The family based a common-law union

The common law union is another type of domestic unit with the same basic relationships as those in the nuclear family, that is, adults are united in an ongoing bond but the bond is not based on the family as faithful concubinage (T.S Simey, 1946). To all intents and purposes the spouses are committed to each other sexually, they raise children in a stable relationship and the family functions as an economic unit. Because of the prevalence of this type of union and the existence of the relationship that it brings into being on the birth of children, several Caribbean governments have given legal recognition to these unions. Caribbean countries such as Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua have passed legislation that affords the children of such union legitimate status as heirs to family property. Common law unions have also been known to exist for many years without persons in the community being aware that the union has not been made legal with a wedding ceremony. The family based on a visiting union

A frequent occurrence in the Caribbean is the domestic unit of a woman and her child or children. In this family form, the mother and her child or children live separately but may be visited from time to time by a man with whom she shares a relationship similar to that of a spouse. The man may or may not be the father of the child or children. Quite often such a visiting union begins with a young woman being impregnated while still living in the household of her mother or parents. RT. Smith (1956) in his work on low income black families in...
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