Husband Wife Relationship

Although mistrust characterizes many working- and middle-class male-female relationships prior to marriage, affection between men and women grows, especially with age, as reproductive roles become less significant and trust increases (Fox, 1999). Still, a man's influence extends over his family and wives are supposed to listen to husbands. Both legal and common-law marriage are regarded as economic arrangements to share sexually divided work, although this ideal is not as rigidly adhered to as it is described, and husbands and wives often assist one another. Because marriage is a symbol of respectability, legally married couples in particular work to maintain an image of stability, legitimacy, and propriety in the eyes of the community by participating in community life. Love and status are important motivations for marriage for the upper classes. Middle-class families strive to emulate husband-wife relationships in elite families.

Jamaica ranks tenth on the list of lowest divorce rates in the world. In 1999, there were 4.4 divorces per 10,000. Women instigate divorce more often than men. Divorce remains a stigma for women, many of whom move abroad or away from the community to avoid social isolation (Douglass, 1992). There is a "cultural promiscuity of violence" perpetuated by men who view wife-beating as an expected form of husbandly chastisement for what they regard as insufficient domestic or sexual services, or lack of respect. Men also identify women with children, using violence as a form of punishment for disobedience (Bailey et al., 1998).

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