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Caribbean Families

Mate Selection And Marriage

For the most part, marriage is taken seriously, and as a result, divorce is less frequent. Most people choose their own mates. However, parental approval, especially from the mother, is still valued. As in the United States, marriages are occurring at a later age and families also tend to be smaller, consisting of one or two children. Many people have a traditional church marriage, because the predominant religions in the Caribbean are Christian.

In general, Caribbean marriages tend to follow a patriarchal pattern where the men are considered the head of the household, and the wife is expected to submit to her husband. However, changes in the status of women—such as accomplishments in higher education and careers—have meant that women have more authority in the home.

Legal marriages are more frequent than common-law relationships within Indian-Caribbean families compared to African-Caribbean families. Traditionally, in Indian-Caribbean families parents arranged marriages for their children. Marriage was seen as not only the joining of two persons, but also the joining of two families and two communities. In such marriages, individuals married at an earlier age. Even in the late twentieth century in Trinidad and Tobago, according to the Hindu Marriage Act, a girl may marry at fourteen and a boy at eighteen, and under the Moslem Marriage Act, both girls and boys may marry at twelve. One of the reasons for early marriages was to prevent the daughter from getting into relationships where she might become pregnant and bring disgrace to the family.

Interracial or mixed marriages have been unusual. However, these marriages slowly became more common toward the end of the 1990s. Most of the marriages occur between the Indian-Caribbean and African-Caribbean families, and to a lesser extent between these families and Chinese-Caribbean families.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsCaribbean Families - Family Structure, Extended Family, Mate Selection And Marriage, Role Of Religion, Parent-child Relationships