Trinidadians and Tobagonians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Euro-American ideals of religiously sanctioned weddings and monogamy were avowed by colonial elites as signs of "respectability." For some, these ideals remain guides for conduct; for others, they are the basis for stigmatizing and stereotyping certain segments of society; and for still others, they are foreign values, largely irrelevant to local circumstances. In contrast to their espoused ideals, colonial elites practiced a system of dual marriages or sexual unions. Upper-class males characteristically married a status equal but had extralegal unions—some of long duration, some acts of rape—with women of lower status. The cultural distinction between "inside" and "outside" partners remains important.

Domestic Unit. There is great variation in the composition of Trinidadian households. Households of monogamous couples and their children are not culturally aberrant, but neither is one comprised of a middle-aged woman, her (transmigrant) son's former girlfriend, and the latter's child by a subsequent boyfriend. Such an example illustrates the open rather than distinctive character of "kinship." Attributional aspects of sexual difference are culturally emphasized: men and women are deemed fundamentally different. Concomitantly, husbands and wives generally have separate household roles and responsibilities.

Inheritance. Property generally passes from parents to children. Historically, the distinction between "inside" and "outside" children has been manifest in patterns of inheritance.

Socialization. Women are regarded as more suited to the care of young children, although both men and women display great affection for children. It is not unusual for grandmothers and aunts, as well as mothers, to raise children. Formal education in schools, generally beginning by age 5, is highly valued.

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