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Nuclear families on the increase

Tuesday, June 17, 2014    

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SINCE Independence, the number of nuclear families — two people living together in a marriage or common-law relationship with a child — has increased from 20 per cent to 42 per cent.

The growth is proportional to an improvement in the number of fathers taking on parenting roles, which, according to chairman of Fathers Incorporated Dr Herbert Gayle, who was speaking at a JIS 'Think Tank' last Thursday, June 12, is an encouraging sign.

Fathers Incorporated has been working for years on improving families in Jamaica, and one of its major thrusts is to break the 'ATM machine syndrome', in which many fathers are seen solely as a source of money.

Dr Gayle cited a 2004 study which showed that a father who lived abroad and was sending money home for his child would get scores of nine and 10 out of 10, but one who lived next door and performed all the other roles, except for providing, was getting much lower scores of four out of 10 from both women and children. He added that, according to a previous study done in 2001 by the late Dr Barry Chevannes, a man who loses his job is considered to be "half a man" within six months of unemployment. This, he said, has a devastating effect on the male psyche. "Men have four roles, which are protecting, providing, nurturing and being role models. You cannot assess them based on one (their ability to provide)," Dr Gayle emphasised.

The chairman said that fatherhood is a relatively new institution in the island and that Jamaicans need to recognise that, and the strides that have been made in that area.

"Looking at the data...we are seeing massive changes in fathering in Jamaica. I have to remind people that when we started out in 1838 we were at zero fathers. People think fatherhood is an old institution; it is a new institution in Jamaica," he said.

He explained that during the slavery era, fathers had no opportunities to really be fathers to their children because slaves were all owned, and in many instances families were not kept together. Citing information from the Colonial Office in England, Dr Gayle said that in 1962, only one of five children had a father who was resident in the home. That accounted for 18 to 20 per cent of all children in Jamaica.

"We are encouraged by the growth. (Data for the year) 1991 show that the figure had risen to 37 per cent and we are now at 42 per cent couple families," he said.

"If we have achieved so much, there is a reason to celebrate and it should not be painted with negatives. We should all be pushing for partnerships and restructuring of the family with the National Family Planning Board, Fathers Inc, and faith-based groups," said Gayle.

DR Herbert Gayle

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