CAPE Sociology : Caribbean families are pathological units


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CAPE Sociology : Caribbean families are pathological units

  1. 1. JORGINHO JAMES Name: Jorginho James Grade: 12-B-3 Teacher: Mr. Humber Subject: Sociology Caribbean families are pathological units. Assess this view in no less than 2000 words. The social pathological perspective on the Caribbean family developed and originated in the late 1930‟s. According to Christine Barrow, when the perspective was applied to the Caribbean family, its main aim was to investigate the Caribbean family structure as a social problem. The family is one of the oldest social institutions and is often referred to the cornerstone or backbone of the society. Defined by George Peter Murdock (1949), he defined the family as “a social group characterized by common residence, economic co-operation and reproduction.” George Peter Murdock also went on to say that the family “includes adult of both sexes, at least two of whom who maintains a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, their own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.” (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009, pg122.) The family functions for society is inseparable from its function for its individual members. Murdock‟s definition of family “suggests that the nuclear family is the most “usual” and functional form of family arrangement.” (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009, pg123.) Many persons would also agree with Murdock about the four (4) basic functions that the family performs in society. George Peter Murdock states that the four (4) universal functions of the family in all societies are sexual, reproductive, economic and educational. (Sociology Themes and Perspective Seventh Edition, Haralambos and Holborn, 1|Page
  2. 2. JORGINHO JAMES 2008, pg 462.) However, though Murdock stated that these were the functions of the family in every society, on the Caribbean this is not always the case. Caribbean families are dysfunctional. The social pathological perspective regarded the structure of the Caribbean family in a negative light. It views the Caribbean family structure as chaotic and disorganized. Thomas Simey a wellknown British social welfare worker subscribed to this perspective. “Social pathology deals with the negative social connotations that go to constitute the current society; the deviance and disruption that run parallel to the conformist and the traditionalist points of view. Social pathology includes substance abuse, violence, abuse against women and children, crime, terrorism, corruption, criminality, discrimination, isolation, stigmatization and human rights violations.” ( Another definition stated that “social pathology deals with the social problems which results from dysfunctional social structure.” ( Reporters who supported this perspective were greatly influenced by the conclusion of the West Indian Royal Commission (Moyne Commission) of 1938-1939. (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009, pg129.) Even though the family has its universal functions, the Caribbean families suffer from many problems making it therefore a pathological unit in society. The West Indian Commission investigation identify several problem within the Caribbean family. One such problem was that “family life was seen has loose and unstable, and relationships appeared to be casual.”(Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009, pg 129.) This is opposing the ideal family described by George Peter Murdock, the nuclear family, the Christian family which is based on marriage or have the characteristics of the nuclear family, or the faithful concubinage used by black peasant to replace marriage. In the Caribbean family, there was an apparent increase of promiscuity. Promiscuity is characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially have sexual relation with a number 2|Page
  3. 3. JORGINHO JAMES of partners on a casual basis.( As a result of this practice within the Caribbean families (adults mostly) this practice resulted in and reflects the many illegitimate children in the Caribbean. The conjugal ties where occasionally faithful and enduring but were more often promiscuous and transitory. (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustpha,2009,pg129.) In aiming to curve this practice which would bring forth future problems, a solution attempted was that “the central concern was to persuade people to adopt the superior co-residential, nuclear family sanctioned by marriage and producing legitimate off springs (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha,2009,pg129.) One major attempt was made in Jamaica by Lady Huggins in 1944-1995. She launched the Mass marriage Movement of Jamaica. This was an island-wide campaign to marry couple who were in common-law/ consensual or visiting relationships. Although the movement was generally unsuccessful, it did increase the Jamaica marriage rate from 4.44 per 1000 in 1943 to 5.82 per 1000 in 1951. As a result of the promiscuous relationships among Caribbean nationals, a new pew problem and a new type of family structure emerged. Single, women headed households became prominent and more accepted in the Caribbean. These female headed households are called matrifocal families or matrifocal households. (Sociology Themes and Perspective Seventh Edition, Haralombos and Holborn, 2008,pg461.) As expected, one of the roles that the functionalists and George Peter Murdock spoke about was the family providing economic support. Men/fathers are expected to be the breadwinner I the traditional family. The fathers are also expected to be the disciplinarian. However, with only one income and having have to provide for a family, the income of the mother may not be enough to provide for all the family‟s basic needs and definitely not their wants. With a father or father figure missing, children may become deviant. “Deviant behaviour is behaviours which do not adhere to the widely accepted 3|Page
  4. 4. JORGINHO JAMES social or cultural norms. For example, murder is a form of extreme deviant behaviour which violates the cultural norm which states that it is unacceptable to kill another human being. ( Deviance is also “those behaviours that challenge our assumptions, our taken for granted sense of normality and naturalness. (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009,pg332.) As a result, these deviant children may become a part of the population in a society termed juvenile delinquent and may cause problem in the society. Even though abuse against women and children is a universal issue, the problem seems to exist a lot more in the Caribbean and in Caribbean families. A problem that originates in the family and causes further problems within the society. The male in the family, whether the father or the spouse of the mother, some women often suffer from abuse. The abuse women have to suffer from may include physical abuse or emotional abuse. The children of the family are not spared as they too have to watch their mothers been abused and they themselves are abused. A lot of these children after been abused and witnessing their mother been abused sometimes in turn pass on the abuse to their peers and even to their children in the future. The mothers also suffer and may even pass on the abuse they experience to their children. These children along with their mothers may also turn to substance abuse and even contemplate suicide. These are not good for the country or for the environment as it may lead to other distresses in the society. The views and perspective of the family in the Caribbean also elaborates on how the family operates. The main functionalist theorist of the family is George Peter Murdock and Talcott Parson. Murdock argued the basis the nuclear family was the universal social institution. ( The family though having the task of providing four main functions does not carry out its role in full. When a family does not carry out its role, the children of the family will find alternative means to get what they want. As a result, the family 4|Page
  5. 5. JORGINHO JAMES failed and the children may become delinquent and even become criminals. In this case, the family proves itself to be pathological unit in society as it‟s because of the family downfall of not carrying out their role of a family that results in social problems arising in the society and the breakdown of family ties. The positive view or the positive light ion which the functionalist‟s views the family cannot be supported entirely based on how the Caribbean families are. The fail in performing all the task and functions described by the functionalist and the family has internal problems that contribute to social problems. The Marxist perspective on the family comes from Friedrich Engels. Friedrich Engels stressed on the patriarchal structures of the family. In the traditional families, men are the head of the household. The Marxist perspective views this as a way of capitalist ideology where women are exploited and are subjected to men (Marxist Feminist). “Eli Zaretsky (1976) analyzed developments in the family in modern capitalist society creates the illusion that the „private life” of the family is quite separate from the economy.”(Sociology Themes and Perspective Seventh Edition, Haralombos and Holborn, 2008,pg467). Like in the economy, members of the family are exploited. The children of the family are expected to behave in a particular manner and adhere to whatever their parents command. Like the children, mothers or women are also exploited. The Marxist perspective of the family views it as another example and way that capitalist system is reproduced in the society. To them there is clearly a relationship between capitalist and the family. Even though the investigation of the West Indian Royal Commission identified some key problems of the Caribbean family and some solutions attempted, the report of the Colonial Officer was criticized. Some of the criticism was that “social pathology was seen as ethnocentric: 5|Page
  6. 6. JORGINHO JAMES the Caribbean family was seen as a failure since it did not meet Western Christian standards.” (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009,pg130). Ethnocentrism means that “something is characterized by or based on attitude that one‟s own group is superior.” ( Therefore, it is viewing of people‟s behaviour from the perspective of their own culture. That means then that the criticism means in other words that the Caribbean family was seen as a failure because it did not meet the standards of the West. Another criticism was that, “though superficial and biased, never the less provided the basis for an assumed understanding of the family form in the Caribbean, and thereby misrepresented what was perceived as shortcomings.” (Sociology for Caribbean Students, Nasser Mustapha, 2009, pg130). Many of the surveys carried out were considered to be limited surveys and not in depth and therefore some of the findings were not reliable. Finally, the last criticism was that the perspective stereotyped the role of t the role of the male and the role of the female. It was assumed that the man should always be seen as the head household, even if he did not perform this duties that were required of him. The women were seen as being solely in charge of rearing the children and taking care of the man, although in many cases she was the sole financial provider and the head of the household. In conclusion, Caribbean families are pathological units. “Family pathology refers to how a family functions as unit and to do dynamics between family members. It is not just about mental orders; it also includes behaviours such as family violence, sexual abuse, incest and other aberrant behaviours.” ( The nuclear family is considered to be the ideal family in the Caribbean. However, this has been changing as a lot of matrifocal households have been emerging. With this new type of households have been emerging, women are now the breadwinner for families and also the disciplinarian. With this breakdown and the changing roles 6|Page
  7. 7. JORGINHO JAMES in the Caribbean family comes problems such as abuse against women and children substance abuse, exploitation of the role the women and children among other socil problems. The social pathology perspective aim was to clearly to assess the Caribbean family as a social problem and it did. However, “there is no such thing as a perfectly normal society and it is downright impossible to determine it. The chief problem in doing so lies in the fact that there is no fixed parameter of determination, no standards of universally accepted norms of differentiation. An ideal society where all the processes perfectly synchronized is a non-existent one.” ( There is no society that is perfect, the family is the cornerstone of society, therefore, no family is perfect. 7|Page
  8. 8. JORGINHO JAMES BIBLOGRAPHY  Mustapha,N.(2009). Sociology for Caribbean Students.Kingston. Ian Randle Publishers.  Haralambos, M.Holborn,M.(2008).Sociology Themes and Perspective Seventh Edition.London.HarperCollins Publishers Limited.       8|Page