Caribbean Family Diversity: Functions of The Family

The various family forms found in the Caribbean

Jamaican couple in bed


The family, in many ways, is the birthplace of society. It is our most basic economic, political, and social unit.

It is within the Caribbean family that individuals first learn the value of work and the worth of their possessions.

It is within the Caribbean family that individuals first experience authority, co-operation, and governance.

Families teach individuals how to relate to and treat one another.

Families provide an appropriate space for nurturing, growth, and education.

They are truly the schools where social and emotional skills are acquired. Clearly, families provide an invaluable service to society. In fact, without families, society as we know it could disappear (Mehrotra, 2005).

Each unit within every nation, ethnic group, or society differs and so too fashions who we become

black family

What is a family?

Mehrotra (2005) states that frequently the answer describes the physical and formal composition of a family: a mother, a father, children, possibly grandparents, or other members of the extended family.

The role of each member is often defined by gender.

The man is considered responsible for the material well-being of his wife, their children, and elderly dependents. The woman is considered responsible for the emotional and spiritual welfare of the family unit.

Functions of a Family

Although families differ in form according to society, they nevertheless are responsible for carrying out similar functions.

The primary function of the family is to reproduce society, either biologically, socially, or both.

Family functions are more or less universal, in that families throughout the world are expected to perform these functions for the benefit chiefly of their family members and the community. According to Thelma M. Stewart PhD., of the Ministry of Education, the chief functions of the family are:

  1. Procreation or reproduction – for the continuation of the species.
  2. Socialization includes – education, religion, learning social relationships, being a responsible citizen.
  3. Providing the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, health care, and love.
  4. Transmitting the culture: that is, passing on the language, beliefs and attitudes, goals and values.
  5. Preventing incest, by regulating kinship relationships
  6. Conferring Status:  Status may be: derived (e.g. family name) or acquired (e.g. earned from society).

Caribbean Family Diversity: Functions of The Family.


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