Family cornerstone of society.
Families not functioning prop-erly in todays environment.
Lessons in parenting needed in schools.
Mandatory counsellling for couples wishing to be married.
family, without question, is the cornerstone of any society.
The ability of our nation to adapt to the demands of the global
environment would depend on our families ability to
cope with the changes that are required, if they are to remain
In our drive for developed-nation status we may be guilty
of attempting to build a societal superstructure on a substructure
(the family structure) that is at present not able to carry
In the Caribbean, our families are characterised by women-led
extended families. In T&T, this type of family organisation
is still very popular, especially in the more rural areas.
The other very popular family organisation is the woman-led
single family and this may come about as a result of a failed
marriage or relationship or some misguided neo-feminist ideal.
The present challenges that our country faces is mainly due
to the fact that our families are not functioning properly
in todays environment. Whatever the reasons, the fact
remains that our society has to adapt to meet the demands
of the global environment in which we now operate. The Government
now needs to pay special attention to the state of our families
to ensure that they can maintain the ability to function effectively.
The rising cost of living due to high world oil prices, the
downsizing and restructuring of companies to maintain a competitive
advantage due to globalisation, and the expected increase
in mobility of goods and services with the implementation
of the CSM all demand that our families adopt a structure
and lifestyle that would allow the holistic development of
children, flexibility for adjustments in the economy, and
mobility to take advantage of opportunities abroad.
The main function of the family is to provide the necessary
support for the proper upbringing of the offspring. The popularity
of the extended family is hinged on the need for financial
support. The members of the household are supposed to contribute
towards the needs of the home. However, this is not the case
in more recent times.
Changes in attitudes of our youths are putting pressure on
this type of family, since not only are we seeing more single
parents, but teenaged, sometimes unemployable, single mothers.
Grandparents now have to pick up the slack and use money meant
for their retirement savings to support both child and grandchild.
The nuclear family structure allows for more holistic support
for children. Ideally, the husband should be the main breadwinner
with the wife providing any necessary financial support. This
should leave one parent free at any given time to look after
the needs of the children. The size of the family is important,
as this determines the parents ability to manage and
provide adequately for each child.
A smaller, single unit nuclear family can provide greater
opportunities for upward social mobility of the children.
This would result from the parents ability to afford
good quality education as well as the parents having the time
to spend with their children, instilling good moral values
and building self-confidence in the child.
The physical mobility of the nuclear family is also greater
than the extended family. In the latter case it is very unlikely
that the whole family can move to other territories to take
advantage of opportunities there. Instead only one parent
may be able to go abroad, in most cases the single mother,
leaving the children in the care of the relatively young and
still employed grandparent.
This initiates the barrel child syndrome as the
children under-perform in school and are reluctant to be committed
to anything in the hope that their mother or father would
be sending for them soon.
The environment we live in today dictates that our young people
carefully plan their lives and by extension their families.
Todays world of work demands that we be highly trained,
flexible and mobile. Any young person serious about starting
a family needs to take this into consideration.
To be highly trained we may have to postpone marriage and
starting a family in order to attain our degrees. Flexibility
and mobility would dictate when we can have children and how
many. It is only through this type of planning can our families
adjust to the changing environment and adequately perform
To facilitate this much needed approach to family life, parenting
programmes should become an integral part of the school curriculum.
There should be mandatory counselling for couples wishing
to be married, which should ensure that they meet some minimum
requirement before the State can recognise the union. Smaller
families should be encouraged through positive reinforcement
via social polices similar to those in China.
Being the young developing nation that we are, we are fortunate
to be able to learn from the experiences of the more developed
societies of the world. In striving toward developed-nation
status, the proper infrastructure needs to be put in place
now to ensure that we have developed-nation families.
Wesley George is the education officer of the PNM National