Relationsips within the Family

In the Caribbean today there are numerous changes taking place within the family structures. With regards to gender, male and female roles have been changing for various reasons the two main reasons being: education and economics.

With regards to educational changes, women have greater opportunities to improve their education. Many are able to gain access to higher education and, therefore to gain jobs previously held by men.

When it comes to economics, there are more women in the workforce now than before. As a result of technology, jobs previously held by men through physical prowess are now open to women, since little physical strength is now required.

Other structural changes include:

  • The shift from extended to nuclear families, as well as rise of one-person households and of cohabitation, became evident during the last 50 years.
  • Falling fertility rates, migration, an increase in divorce rates and an increase in the number of older people, are responsible for smaller-size households.
  • Ageing impacts on inter-generational solidarity, housing social security systems, care giving and health costs.
  • Age at first marriage has risen to the mid- to late twenties in all regions of the world, often because of better educational and employment opportunities for women.
  • Women now have fewer children later in life.
  • Migration can cause major stress on family life because of cultural, ethnic, racial and religious differences and a lack of integration.
  • Seasonal and internal migration of men contributes to a higher number of female-headed households around the world.

As a general note, the changing role of women affects the role of men in society. Women now also hold roles previously held by males and they contribute financially to the household, so men no longer have economic control in the home. This has resulted in men feeling alienated or marginalised in the family. Some view the woman as neglecting her family responsibilities to pursue careers. Women have long been acknowledged as the backbone of Caribbean families. In the dominant culture of the region, marriage is not considered necessary for procreation, so women may choose to raise children independently. Today, the female headed household, which was common in the Caribbean, is also increasing in prevalence in the West.

Source: Sociology for Caribbean Students; Nasser Mustapha

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