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Jamaican Family Cultural Practices Research Paper

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2020


The history of the Jamaicans in the United States began in 1619 when some blacks from Jamaica, as well as from the Caribbean islands migrated to the United States. It is during this time that 20 indentured workers arrived in Virginia (Parkins, 2011). Their arrival in the United States meant that they would live and work in the farms as free beings, even with the advent of the first slaves in 1629. Notably, Jamaica was a major station through which the slaves going to the United States, as well as other parts of North America, would be stationed and cleared before their final destination (Omi & Winant, 2010).

Thus, Jamaicans’ immigration into the United States was tied to the emancipation and slave trade. Later, the American colonies, as well as their European counterparts with large sugar plantations in the Caribbean started to import more Jamaican immigrants in 1838 as labor for their farms (Kent, 2007). As a result, most Jamaicans were recruited in the Costa Rican and Panama lands. However, after the abolition of slave trade in the United States, most farm owners started to hire temporary labor for their farms. The workers were referred to as swallow migrants, and their duty involved crop harvesting on a yearly basis. However, most of these people later returned to their homes after the harvest was done, though they were later recruited by the United States at the commencement of the World War I and II.

The Caribbean people were involved in forced, large-scale migration of slaves for many years. However, they began to voluntarily migrate to the United States at the beginning of 1990 due to the immigration reforms in the United States that happened in 1965, placing a new priority on family types of migrations (Parkins, 2011). Thus, many people from Jamaica started to migrate into the US. Presently, Caribbean immigrants moving into the United States as permanent residents gain admission based on their family ties. Notably, the 1.7 million Caribbean-born citizens in the United States represent nearly half of all the black immigrants in the country.

These people are also concentrated in the states of New York, Florida, New Jersey, and Georgia, among other states. The population of Jamaicans that has inhabited these states is 305,285 people, 256, 478 people, 55, 351, and 53, 603 respectively. As it is, most Jamaicans are concentrated in New York, owing to the residential reforms and open admission into the states’ City University (Parkins, 2011).

Cultural Practices and Traditions

The Jamaican tradition describes the cultural practices of the people. The culture of the Jamaicans is unique, given that the people are ritualistic in nature (Reynolds, 2006). These rituals are usually performed during particular events and in several places. They help to define the Jamaicans’ culture due to the prevalence of the Jamaicans in the region. Mostly, such ritualistic events are held during public holidays, the Lent, and during the Christmas period. Other than observing religious rituals, the Jamaicans also perform traditional rituals such as the Nine Nights after the death of one their most revered family member.

Another aspect of the Jamaican culture is further reflected in their ways of dressing, as well as their artistic work. It is worth noting that the Jamaicans’ art is a continuous reminder of their day to day life (McKenzie, 2003). Notably, it is easy to identify their craft work, paintings, collage, and sculptures, as they are artistically inclined to reggae music, and its derivatives, which include the rock-steady and dancehall forms of music. The music is unique because it was invented by the Jamaicans. Also, their music enjoys massive airplay and support across the continents, with a growing huge following.

Another important cultural and traditional aspect of the Jamaican people is their religion. In fact, religion also plays a significant role in bringing the Jamaicans together, as they have come up with a way of worship that identifies them (Yildirim, 2013). The religion is called Pocomania, which is a mixture of practices of both the African religious traditions and Christianity. There is also another religion that is known as the Rastafarianism, one that is practiced by a few in the society (Manuel & Marshall, 2007).

In effect, Rastafarianism does not bring most of the Jamaicans together. Thus, there is a need to look at the religion and give it more amendments. Notably, the Jamaican people are profoundly religious. It is easy to know the importance of religion in the lives of the Jamaicans in their day to day way of speaking. A majority of Jamaican people are Christians, who comprise the Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican, the Roman Catholics, and the Brethren. Their Christmas celebrations are frequently characterized by Christian songs, Communion services, all-night prayers, Candlelight ceremonies, and concerts.

Family Dynamics and Patterns

The family dynamics of the Jamaican people are such that the extended family is tightly knit. Notably, most of the family members relate well with each other, offering one another both economic and emotional support. The Jamaicans believe that family is the most important group in a person’s life because family relationships help one to grow. In effect, the issue of trust among the people is paramount (Reynolds, 2006). Family members tend to trust their relatives and friends. This is notable in their behavior, as most of them would better form collaborative business partnerships with friends and families than go to the bank to get a loan (Barrow, 2008).

Further, most of the Jamaican people are African-Caribbean families. It is important to note that about 80-90 percent of families living in the Caribbean have an African background (Reynolds, 2006). Also, these natives came to occupy the region as a result of the slave trade that existed at the time. Most of the regions dominated by the natives include the Barbados, Jamaica, and other areas in the Caribbean Island. The African descent is still evident in the majority of the population living in Trinidad and Tobago and the Guyana, which is about half of the entire population.

The Jamaican ways of child rearing are also unique. Some aspects of their family life that characterize their child-rearing behaviors include frequently applied common-law union and a high incidence of absentee fathers (Brown & Johnson, 2008). The children are also subjected to child shifting, where a child is made to live with their relatives due to the conditions of their family. Thus, the children are forced to live with either parent or stay with their grandparents.

The Jamaican families are either Multifocal or Matricentric. However, the Jamaican fathers, are great providers for their families, even though absent from their kids’ life many times. Thus, the fathers ensure that their children have basic needs and are well taken care of in many aspects of their lives. Consequently, fathers play a great role in the upbringing of their families. The ability to provide economically and cater for one’s families’ is something that the Jamaican fathers have demonstrated adequately.

On the other hand, the emotional connection that the parents have with their children is not easy to point out. The University of West Indies has further proven that there is very minimal or no connection between a father and child emotionally. In effect, the children grow up with little regard for the families they bear; as it is not strange to have extramarital affairs as that most males are never around. Further, the children are also used to living in matriarchal dominated households (Chevannes, 2004).

Different forms of family set ups characterize the nature of the Jamaican families, consequently influencing their childbearing activities, lifestyle, and values. First is the common law union, where both parents stay together, but have not been joined legally. Second is the marital union, and the third is single parenting. Last is the visiting union, where the mother is still under the care of her parents. Ideally, the marital journey of Jamaican women begins from their first visit and transcends to common law, which later results in marriage. However, statistics show that most homes are headed by females, who represent about 30-50 percent of the total households (Spiers, Gundala, & Singh, 2014).

Resultantly, about 30% of the total child population grows under the guidance and care of their mothers. Only 60% of the children grow under the custody of both parents (Jokhan, 2007). Other children that are born in the later stages of life usually grow up under the care of both parents.

Both the culture and the political nature of the Jamaican people have experienced a tremendous transformation, following the influence of the African-Caribbean families living in the Caribbean region. One such factor is the introduction of reggae and calypso, which are reflected in the celebration of the Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago by the African-Caribbean families. Moreover, it is interesting to note that most of the politicians in the country are of the African descent (Roopnarine, Krishnakumar, Narine, Logie, & Lape, 2013). Consequently, there have been immense changes in the culture of the Jamaican people, as the infiltration of the African-Caribbean family increases.

Challenges and Discussion

The Jamaican population faces some difficulties. Notably, modern Jamaican parents are confronted with financial and immigration restrictions that make it hard for most families to migrate to the United States together. Inability to live together as one family unit means the proliferation of their Jamaican values. In fact, for immigration to commence, one spouse precedes the other by moving to the United States for many years before the entire family could finally arrive (Jokhan, 2007). Further, it is easier for the women to migrate to the United States compared to their male counterparts. Thus, when women relocate successfully, they immediately start to file for permanent residency so that they can bring their families to live with them. However, it takes long periods for one to become a permanent resident, usually about five to ten years.

However, following the long period of separation from their spouses, it is easier for the women to sever ties with their families back at home and begin a fresh life in the states. Notably, when women are migrating to the United States, they are forced to leave their children under the care of their grandparents, friends, or relatives. Such a life implies that the children are highly unattended and receive minimal supervision back at home (Bakker, Elings-Pels & Reis, 2011).

As a result, the children resort to moral vices like crime and substance abuse (Jokhan, 2007). Most of the children do not take the time to concentrate in school and those that still attend school end up being highly disruptive on the pretext that they would soon be migrating. Finally, when these kids join their immigrant parents in the United States, they are forced to remain on their own and are mostly unattended as the parent tries to find a means of survival of the family.

The result is that most of the families become highly dysfunctional, owing to the economic hardships and limited family time (Smith & Green, 2007). In fact, this situation is worse for Jamaicans holding blue collar jobs in their previous country. Their migration to the United States implies that they have to start life afresh, which is quite difficult for their young ones to understand. The situation is worsened by the poor treatment the children receive from both teachers and students in the schools they attend.

Secondly, this population, similar to other black Americans living in the United States, suffers a problem of discrimination in the job market. Illegal Jamaican aliens and immigrants to the United States are highly vulnerable to exploitation and injustice in the job market. They are characterized as unskilled labor due to their poor level of education and skills (Reynolds, 2006). Thus, the Jamaicans are forced to work for longer hours than usual or manage several part-time jobs to survive.

However, a considerable number of Jamaicans are successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople. For instance, most of the Jamaicans living in New York have gained considerable mileage as a result of their affirmative action on both jobs and housing in Crown Heights, Flatbush, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, among other places. Thus, most of them have also been able to take advantage of the opportunities at the University of New York to gain better skills and accelerate their positions in the labor market.

Thoughts and Opinions on their cultural Practices

The ability of most Jamaicans to speak English places them in a position where they are not regarded as a cultural group among the people of the United States. As a result, they are mistaken for African-Americans whom they are mostly identified with, with the assumption that they share similar values and beliefs. However, the history and culture of the Jamaican people is very distinct. While the Jamaicans tend to be stereotyped as fun loving and happy individuals, they are very humorous and have a great liking for music and dance.

They are also hard workers, with a strong desire for better education. Given their history of slavery, the Jamaicans tend to distrust any established system that is instructive. Notably, slavery and poverty have profoundly impacted the family structure and gender responsibilities. The households end up being managed by women as most of the men go away to look for employment.


Through this evaluation, I feel that the Jamaican people are hard workers, with a culture that promotes the hard work. Both the men and the women work hard to sustain their families, even though fathers are mostly absent. The culture of provision without presence implies that the children are subjected to foster parenting under the grandparents, relatives, and their parents’ friends. The children, in turn, grow up as rebels, with minimal need to be responsible citizens. Thus, the culture is a detriment to the promotion of family values and proper child rearing.


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Brown, J., & Johnson, S. (2008). Childrearing and child participation in Jamaican families. International Journal of Early Years Education, 16(1), 31–40. Web.

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Roopnarine, J. L., Krishnakumar, A., Narine, L., Logie, C., & Lape, M. E. (2013). Relationships between parenting practices and preschoolers’ social skills in African, Indo, and mixed-ethnic families in Trinidad and Tobago the mediating role of ethnic socialization. Cross-Cultural Psychology, 45(3), 362-380. Web.

Smith, D., E. & Green, K. E. (2007). Violence among youth in Jamaica: a growing public health risk and challenge. Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública, 22(6), 417-424. Web.

Spiers, S., Gundala, R. R., & Singh, M. (2014). Culture and consumer behavior—A study of Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 6(4), 92. Web.

Yildirim, E. D. (2013). Relationships between parenting styles, severity of punishment, importance of religion in child development and childhood social behaviors in Caribbean immigrant families. Web.

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