Saint Lucians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Three types of heterosexual unions are common in Saint Lucia, as is true for the West Indies in general: visiting unions, in which a couple engages in sexual/economic relations but does not share a residence; common-law unions, in which in addition to having a sexual/economic relationship, the couple also shares a domicile; and marital unions, in which the couple engages in sexual/economic relations, is legally wed, and shares a common residence. Each union entails different degrees of stability, typically correlating with differing levels of economic obligation and commitment. Moreover, union types vary with the life cycle: visiting unions are most common during early adulthood, marital unions later on.

Domestic Unit. Like the vast majority of West Indian societies, Saint Lucia is matrifocal; households are not only largely composed of women and their offspring, but women also assume a dominant role in the domestic domain. Although individuals in the upper stratum of society are likely to be found in households that approximate the European ideal of a nuclear family, for those in the lower stratum of society, the nuclear-family pattern is exceptional.

Socialization. Women are the primary socializing agents, although children are greatly valued by both men and women in Saint Lucian society. Children provide labor while they are young, and as adults they are expected to care for their aging parents. The concept of familial reciprocity is instilled in children at a very early age.

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