Bahamians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Unlike many of the peoples of the Caribbean, Bahamians have a mating system characterized by marriage and extraresidential unions but not consensual unions. A double standard of sexual morality regulates the behavior of men and women. A man is expected to have both premarital and extramarital affairs; a woman is not. Seldom do an unmarried man and woman live together. One-third of the children born in the 1960s were "outside," that is, illegitimate, and the percentage of illegitimate births has risen steadily.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear-family household is the ideal norm. With the migration of adults to Nassau and Freeport, households headed by one or both grandparents are common in the out islands. Single-parent and single-person households are also found.

Inheritance. Bahamians frequently follow the rule of primogeniture, a legacy of British colonialism. For most people, their home is the only item of value. On the death of the husband, the home becomes his wife's, to be used by her until her death, at which time it is inherited by the oldest son. Property may also be received by will.

Socialization. The primary caretaker for most children is either the mother or grandmother. The caretaker not only provides for immediate needs but also acts as the chief disciplinarian. Women who fear the supernatural are more likely to use corporal punishment than those who view the supernatural as benevolent. The punishment itself does not seem to prevent the establishment of strong bonds of loyalty. Adult children frequently give gifts (often money) to their mothers, sometimes to help the older women raise their grandchildren. In the past, children in the out islands attended local schools for eight years, then went to Nassau for secondary education. Since independence, secondary schools, drawing from several settlements, have been introduced in many out islands where there had been only primary schools. These schools are staffed by teachers from other parts of the British Commonwealth as well as Bahamians.

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