Carib of Dominica - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Roughly two-thirds of all Carib infants are born to unwed mothers and are referred to by their parents as "illegitimate." Sexual relationships before marriage are expected and accepted. Those that may eventually lead to marriage begin casually, long before a couple establishes a common residence. Formal marriage usually is initiated only after a couple has had one or more children and has lived together for some time. Where each couple establishes a new home depends more on economic calculations than on any kinship-based rule of residence; however, married Carib show a slight preference for locating near the husband's kin. Because most Carib marry individuals from their own neighborhood, couples usually live near relatives of both partners.

Domestic Unit. Household composition is highly variable and shifts over time. Most domestic units contain one (but only one) couple, married or consensually cohabiting, one child or more, and at least one additional relative such as a grandparent.

Inheritance. Property inherited from a parent or other relative is usually divided among children, males and females alike, sometimes while the owner is still living. Much confusion and disputing attend inheritance, since wills are the exception. One sibling may inherit a piece of land and another may inherit the fruit or coconut trees that grow on that land. Houses are usually left to the couple residing there at the time of the owner's death.

Socialization. The care and instruction of a young child is a responsibility shared by many. A mother, grandmother, or other relative may be designated as the primary caretaker of a given child, but others, especially older siblings, are likely to play an active supporting role. If one's mother is very young or employed elsewhere, a more mature aunt or a grandmother may assume the role of mother. On days when the mother is in the hills gardening or on shopping trips to the city, a child is likely to be left in the care of an older sister, half-sister, or cousin. Girls are expected to be interested in schoolwork but willing to skip school to care for preschoolers. Young boys are considered less inclined to take an active interest in school, and very few domestic demands are made on them, in contrast to their sisters. When they are about 8 years old, parental permissiveness declines sharply, and they are likely to receive a great deal of teasing and arbitrary chastisement as well as physical bullying from older brothers. Either parent may administer corporal punishment for any action considered disrespectful, but discipline in young boys is neither anticipated nor highly valued, and adolescent boys are considered too old to be advised by their elders. All children are enrolled in school, but attendance is irregular, standards and expectations are low, and most drop out by age 15.


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