Courtship and Marriage

Since 1887, when civil registration for marriage was first institutionalized, marriage rates have remained low among Jamaica's working-class majority. In 1988, the rate was 4.4 per 1,000. Three forms of partnering prevail, including legal marriage, common-law marriage and visiting arrangements. Multiple partnering is also common. It is culturally acceptable for a man to have more than one woman since men are expected to be promiscuous by nature. Women also seek multiple partners as sources of economic support.

The working class tend to marry later in life, typically when men and women are in their forties, can pay for the ceremony and a separate household, and have already produced offspring from previous nonlegal unions. Among the upper classes, marriage is hyperga-mous and occurs earlier in life, with women in their early twenties and men in their late twenties (Douglass, 1992).

Christian, working-class, and middle-class marriage ceremonies take place in churches with receptions often occurring outdoors at a relative's home. Amidst music arranged by a DJ, toasts are made and "box lunches" of fried chicken or curried goat are served, along with "mannish water" (goat soup). Among the upper classes, church weddings are followed by lavish receptions on the estates of the bride's parents, where extravagant meals of traditional Jamaican fare are served and men make toasts in honor of their wives.

When working-class women marry they do not expect romantic love, although it does exist. Instead, they "look money" and status, while men "look sex" (Sobo, 1993). Many men and women avoid marriage because of lack of trust, poor communication, and economic wariness. Women believe men will avoid financial responsibility and men fear women's control over them. Common-law arrangements indicate a common household without legal sanction, while visiting relations involve neither legal sanction nor a common household. Common-law is by far the most popular conjugal bond of the working class. Working-class women first enter into visiting relationships in their twenties, but tend to move into common-law arrangements after they have their first child. Visiting relations are a form of extended courtship with a sexual component, involving frequent meetings when couples reside close by. Men are expected to help financially with a woman's children, particularly if the man is her "babyfather." During visiting meetings couples go on outings together to clubs, parties, sports events, the beach, and church (Roberts & Sinclair, 1978).

Children learn by early adolescence that men initiate courtship through the use of their bodies and that women who do so are considered "bad" women, without sexual control. Women are subject to sexual comments by men who "lyrics them," accepting advances by permitting men to hold their hands (Chevannes, 2001).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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