Caribbean Studies Essay
Examine the argument that in Caribbean society and culture the nuclear family is the ideal type of family especially in terms of bringing up children.
According to Caribbean society and culture the nuclear family is the ideal type of family especially in terms of raising children. The social institution of the family was made up of ideas and beliefs about how best to perform the task of living in society. According to (Farooq, 2013) functionalism states that they are several functions a family should carry out which are: the reproductive function, the socialization function, the economic function and the ability to provide love and a sense of belonging. A nuclear family is one which consists of two parents living with their children, also known as an immediate family (Blessing, 2011). The ways in which the Caribs and Tainos raised their children in the past are completely different to how persons in the Caribbean raise their children in society today. They have moved from the initiation of Carib boys into the status of warriors, to family life being centered around the mother, extended families, nuclear families, one man with two or more families and households being led by grandparents.
The value that is attributed to the nuclear family in the social institution of the family occurred because it was the value of the rich and powerful in society (Powell, 2011). Persons who are born into society often accept the social institutions that form that society. Therefore, persons who were born into the society that believed that the nuclear family was the model type of family more than likely adopted that same belief or idea since it would be passed on from one generation to the next. The Europeans were the ones who brought the idea of the nuclear family to the Caribbean and that idea became instilled into the society through the colonial rule. However, majority of persons still believed in matrifocal families and continued to create them (Mohammed, 2007). During the colonial rule, scholars who believed their group was superior, also known as ‘ethnocentric scholars’ believed that unions such as, single parents and unwed couples were inferior and ‘unstable unions’ compared to the nuclear type of family (Mohammed, 2007). Accepting the nuclear family as the ideal type of family also meant accepting gender stereotype where the father’s principal roles are economic provider and authority figure while the mother’s principal roles are to take care of the children and be the nurturer in the family (Mohammed, 2007). Any other arrangement such as single parents were seen as ‘loose’ and ‘unstable’ since the stereotypes could not be applied to them.
Although the nuclear family is one of the most common type of families and it may offer dual incomes and the opportunity for the child to be raised by both a mother and a father. The other forms of families such as single parent, visiting relationships and children with different fathers which are exhibited by the Caribbean society, carry out the same functions as the nuclear family such as reproduction, food and shelter, economic support and socialization (Evans, 2009). There is no one specific family that is exhibited by the Caribbean society. Each person is faced with varying circumstances such as economics problems, slavery and that makes them adopt a specific type of family. Poor and unemployed women would be willing to be involved in a sexual relationship with a man since they believe that there is no other option, especially when a child is involved. They would endure several relationships so that the household would be able to survive (Mohammed, 2007). Also, the unions and practices the slaves were forced to adopt on the plantations influenced the type of Caribbean families today. European laws were not fond upon marrying between races or even enslaved persons being married so this was one of the reasons that discouraged stable families (Mohammed,2007). Caribbean persons also retain their African culture by adopting matrifocal households; this is where the mother is the head of the household and with the polygamy culture the man is married to more than one wife. They would also include kin into the family, this is where the family extends to aunts, uncles, grandparents and other persons who are related by blood or marriage (Mohammed, 2007). Kin plays a significant role in the lives of Caribbean people especially when they help each other in raising the children of the family. The extended family emphasizes cooperation and support for each other when it comes to the children, whether it may be taking care of them while their parents or at work or lending a monetary support to help raise the children (Malik, 2013).
It can be seen that family is a social institution of society, it is what members of society believe to be the correct ways in which family life is created and maintained. In the Caribbean there is no one ideal type of family but families are adopted based on the circumstances of the individual whether it is by socialization, economic problems or culture. The way in which a child is brought up depends on how the members of the family interact with each other and who they actually consider family (Mohammed, 2007).