Gender Related Social Groups

Caribbean society is often incorrectly characterized as matriarchal. The social institutions of Jamaica—the family, education, medicine, politics, religion, etc.—are generally based on strong female participation, segregation by gender, and male dominance. The family, for example, is often referred to as "matrifocal" or mother centered, because the mother assumes virtually the entire responsibility for the household and childcare, but the man of the house has ultimate authority, even though he spends little time there.

Over 70% of Jamaican women eventually give birth, and the average mother now has three children. In many cases, a woman will have children by more than one man, and maintain relations not only with those men but also with their parents and families, particularly the

"babyfather's" mother, creating an extensive kinship network, although people generally are closest to their mother's kin.

Adolescent boys and young men typically form into same-sex same-age groups and spend a great deal of time together, simply "idling" on the streets, gambling, playing dominoes, cricket, basketball, or football. In the inner city, they are quite likely to become involved in the infamous and violent gang underworld. Girls are less likely to spend time in peer groups, mainly because they are usually restricted to the home and have chores to perform.

There are many voluntary associations in Jamaican society, particularly in the middle-class and urban areas, including football clubs, library associations, professional organizations, trade unions, and political parties. Some are male, some female, and some mixed, and in the latter case the leadership is primarily male even where the membership is predominantly female. This pattern prevails in the church, one of the most important social institutions. A large majority of churchgoers are women, and women are more actively involved in church activities than men; nevertheless, men hold most of the leadership positions.

Education is perhaps the most female-dominated institution in Jamaican society. Sixty-four percent of principals and 92% of teachers in primary and all-age schools are women. The average academic performance of girls is much better than that of boys, and the dropout rate is higher for boys; therefore girls generally advance farther in the system. At the University of the West Indies in Kingston, for example, men made up only 26% of the graduating class of 1998. Errol Miller, Professor of Education at the University of the West Indies, warns that this educational trend is leading to a "marginalization of the black male" in society.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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