Saturday, February 2, 2013

Family Structure in Aruba Is our family different from the other Caribbean Islands?


Aruban women, irrespective of their religion, race, origin, need to be in control of her economic, social and sexual life, choose to be mother or not, and need to be politically motivated in the anticolonial and nationalist movements (Kock, 2011)

Drs. Merviné Kock

Drs. Lilian Felter

Mr. Lily Marval

Abstract:

Family structures have undergone a lot of changes for the last decades.  Due to the rise of the cost of living on the island of Aruba, most women are compelled to take on one or more jobs to provide for their families. This mean that mothers are constantly away from home as a result those children are home alone for many hours, and also due to lack of structure childcare on the island. Single mothers are the ones that are confronted the biggest problem regarding childcare and child support by fathers. The group of single mothers is increasing yearly, meaning that fathers are absent in the family. Absent of the father has its consequences for the mother and for the children. For many reasons mothers choose to take care of her children without the support of the father. One of these reasons is domestic violence. We have domestic violence on daily bases on the island and its getting worse. It is a topic with a lot of taboo, because people feel ashamed about what is happening at their home.

In this preliminary study, we try to shed light on the family structure, the role of the father within the family and domestic violence that has its impact on the family on the island of Aruba.

 Family structures

                Family is a social institution that’s binds two or more individual into a primary group to the extent that the members of group are related to one another on the basis of blood relationships, affinity or some other symbolic network of association (United Nations, 2003). The family is also the essential pillar upon which all society is built. A phenomenon that is characteristic of the family is, the constant change in life, irrespective of space and time. The dynamic character of family has an important impact on a host of other social institutional spheres, prospective economic, fortunes, political decision-making and sustainable futures (United Nation, 2003). The ultimate goal of a society is to enhance quality of life; the family constitutes a worthy unit of inquiry. Ideally, the family provides its members with protection, companionship, security, and socialization. The structure of the family, and the needs that the family fulfills vary from society to society (Slideshare, 2009). The nuclear family—two adults and their children—is the main unit in some society. In others, it is a subordinate part of an extended family, which also consists of grandparents and other relatives. A third family unit is the single parent family, in which children live with an unmarried, divorced, or widowed mother or father (Slideshare, 2009).

In the Caribbean there are several types of family structures. These families have to deal with a history of large scale demographic, economic, political and social change (Barrow, 1996) The Caribbean research on the impact of single parenting showed that there are four types of family structure in the Caribbean that affect the child’s rearing, lifestyles, and values. These are the marital union, the common law union[1], the visiting union and the single parent family (Singleparentcenter, 2010). The roles of family members are in many ways different in Caribbean families (Barrow, 1996). In the Caribbean context, its seems to be a fact that the women take on the roles of both the man and the women when its come to rearing the children (Barrow, 1996; Marcha & Verweel; 2008, Bos, 2008) One can argue that this is also the case in Aruba (CBS, 2003). The Aruban family is very diverse. They are a distinct group because of their multiethnic composition (Family.jrank.org, 2008). Because of this ethnic diversity, fathers and mothers have different roles (Family.jrank.org, 2008). The majority of the Caribbean families have an African background, but Aruba has a more Amerindians background. Arubans do not identify very strongly with slaves or slavery, and the national identity defends the principal of the free peasant population that evolved during the 19th century out of the encounter between poor colonists and Amerindians who lived on the island since the 17th century (UNESCO, 2007).

For the last decades the family structure in Aruba undergo a lot of changes and the basic structure is in risk. In the era of our parents, the family structure consists out a mother, father, children and in-laws. Besides bringing up their own children, they took care of children of their kin and children in the neighborhood, the so-called extended family.  The father is the breadwinner and the mother stays home to take care of the children, doing the house chores and manage the administration of the household. Due to immigration, Aruba has a multicultural society that has brought along different kinds of family structure accentuated by the individual background of every member, regardless, his/her country of origin. Consequently, families in Aruba have fallen into different categories: matrifocal (female-headed families), extended, compound, nuclear, and one-parent families  (Barrow, 1996; CBS, 2002; MBZK, 2010).  Mothers have a nurturing role in the family and are usually responsible for taking care of the children and household chores. The female-headed household has increased during the last decades, and, at the present time, we have a rough estimate of 6000 female-headed families on the island (SZA, 2010).

During the 1990s, Aruba’s economy grew at a fast speed, revealing a shortage of labor force in many sectors. Simultaneously, the local market was unable to provide sufficient number of workers to fill all the existing vacancies. The labor shortages lead to ease the immigration policy for foreign laborers, which was implemented at the beginning of the 1990s (CBS, 2004; Ridderstaat, 2005; NosAruba2025, 2010). As a result, the gap in the labor market was reduced with the admission of several thousands of foreign workers. In addition, the government extended the retirement age for locals, and women were stimulated to become part of the labor market.  The rate of participation of women in the labor market – all of them in ages between 35 and 39 -- went up to 80.1 percent, and in 2000, 75 % of professionals and associate professionals were women. The result of the census in the year 2000 showed that the female immigrant population reached the amount of 16.585 women  (CBS, 2001; CBS, 2004).  The female participation in the labor market increased in  2007 to 56,7% (CBS,2008) and in 2009 it increased to 57.8 % (DAO, 2009). Another important factor why so many women have joined the labor force is because of the increasing divorce cases (Kossek, & Sweet, 2006). And divorce has also a big impact on the family structure. The divorce rates in Aruba of the last decades are very high [2] (CBS, 2010). Because of this interruption, irregularity, children are the one that suffer under these circumstances. They malfunction in school, behave bad, becoming aggressive. Due to these divorces, the stay home mothers and mothers that earn minimum wages, relapse into poverty. The income of the husband or spouse withdraws, and it is not automatically that fathers on the island provide alimony for the children. A vast majority of these women struggle to get alimony from the father(s) of her children. Women that cannot afford after-school child-care are forced to compulsory redundancy. Some are obliged to go on welfare. Being on welfare[3] and not receiving child support regularly from the father, put a lot of strain/pressure on the functioning of the mother by struggling on daily bases to support for her children. A group of these women choose to stay employed while the children stay home alone after school and they have to survive by themselves.

Poverty among a group of women[4] still exists, especially among female-headed single families[5].  From these families, 24.2% of all single mothers household live under the subsistence level (CBS, 2005). Single mother with one child, needs 1985 florin a month to survive, and a single mother with 2 children 3176 florin and a single mother with 3 children needs 3772 florin (CBS, 2010),  while the minimum wage is 1542,90[6] florin per month. Meaning that all single mothers, that earn a minimum wage, are living under the poverty line.

Work has also affected the Aruban family structure. Work intensity has increased and has added strain on many families. Bosses want their workers to respond in speedy fashion, consume and produce vast amounts of information, give high customer service and to top it off, be on call 24 hours a day. The pressure has gotten nearly insupportable (Grant-Vallone & Donaldson, 2001; Schindler-Zimmerman, 2001, Gambles, Rapoport, & Lewis, 2006,  Pitt-Catsouphes, Kossek, & Sweet, 2006). Because of this fast-paced life, parents cannot dedicate enough time to their kids, their spouses, and their community (Guest, 2001; Grant-Vallone & Donaldson, 2001). The consequences are evedent! There is a increase in juvenile crime, child neglection and abuse, drug abuse and of the dropout rates. Adults very rarely participate in community organisations and the elderly are put in ‘old people’s homes’ (Guest, 2001; Grant-Vallone & Donaldson, 2001; Middleton, 2008). Juvenile crime has increased with 150% (KPA, 2008) and teenage pregancy rates in Aruba are among the highest in the region at 12.3 % (CBS, 2008; CBS,2009; WGK, 2011). In 2010, 148 were born to a teenage mother, 58.4 % of the registered babies were born out of wedlock and about 56% of wedlock are born to mothers aged between 20 and 29 years (CBS, 2010). Children legislation equalises the rights of children born out of wedlock with those born in wedlock. But when its come for the fathers to pay childsupport, most of the fathers don’t fulfil their obligations (DSZ, 2011).

            The changes in family structure that children experience during their lives are not without consequences. Western societies have found that children from father-absent homes manifest a number of internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors, including sadness and depression, delinquency, aggression, sex role difficulties, early initiation of sexual activity and teen pregnancy, as well as poor social and adaptive functioning and low self- esteem. (Ramkissoon, 2006). However, in the varying family structures present in Jamaica, and indeed in the Caribbean, the terms 'family' and 'parenting' have much broader contexts.

FATHER-CHILD RELATIONSHIP

The interaction between Jamaican fathers and their children, investigated two aspects of the father-child relationship: physical absence and psychological absence. Psychological absence refers to the father's absence in the minds of their children based on emotional inaccessibility, lack of responsibility and indifference to the welfare of their children.  Taken separately, the psychological presence of the father is more important to the emotional well-being of the child. Physical presence necessarily promotes psychological presence, but physical presence and psychological absence can lead to expressive rejection and greater psychological damage. It is suggested that concerns about the effects of fathering on children should consider both physical and psychological presence.

 FAMILY FUNCTIONING

The impact of parenting stress on Jamaican children is not to be ignored. Parenting stress is one of four factors identified in Jamaica that affect all aspects of children's outcomes: cognitive development, school performance, behavior problems and behavior strengths (Samms-Vaughan, 2005). One way that parenting stress may exert its impact is through interaction with children.  Ricketts and Anderson found that highly stressed Jamaican parents do not spend as much time interacting with their child and much of their interaction is inappropriate, with high levels of harsh discipline. Importantly, Ricketts and Anderson showed that parental stress was reduced by access to parenting information but relatively few parents had such access. The implication is that parenting information and support should be made more widely available, to improve parent-child interaction.

The Caribbean family structure includes strong patterns of grandmother-dominated households, absent fathers, common law unions as opposed to marriage and frequent termination of these unions, and even child shifting. Child shifting is where children are sent to relatives to live with them because the parents migrated or remarried or began a common law union with another spouse.

While the fathers that are present are expected to be the driving economical force in the family, they are typically emotionally unavailable and have weak social ties to their children. One thing that the Caribbean research on the impact of single parenting showed is that due to these trends, young boys grow up viewing matriarchal households, absent fathers, and adultery as norms and tend to continue these trends as adults when they themselves have families.

Because the norm is to begin being a parent without the protection of marriage, single parenting is far more common according to Caribbean research on the impact of single parenting. The Caribbean research on the impact of single parenting also found that when children were born later in the cycle (such as in the common law stage or the marital union), they were more likely to grow up in a two-parent home. Fathers play a number of significant roles, companions, care providers, spouses, protectors, models, moral guiders, teachers and breadwinners. Whose relative importance varies across historical epochs and sub cultural groups? Only by considering fathers performance by these various roles and by taking into account their relevant importance by socio-ecological contexts concerned, can fathers impact on a child be concerned.  In the Caribbean there are a number of absent fathers (Kerr, 1963).

The most problems children of Aruba experienced (According to Children helpline) are relationship problems (9,5% in 2007 to 10,5 % in 2009), sexuality (6,2 % in 2007 to 8,0 % in 2009), family (6,7 % in 2007 to 7,0 % in 2009), violent (3,9 % in 2006 to 4,6 % in 2009),  (Children's helpline, calls by nature of problems). According to the Children's helpline, the most calls by age group are the children (callers) between 11 and 16 year. Children starts calling from the age less than of 8 years old. The most calls are in the following groups:

-           In the group of 11- 12 year (14,3 %),

-           In the group of 13- 14 year (29,5 %),

-           In the group of 15- 16 year (12,5 %). 

 One of the concerns in the Aruban society is Child abuse by type of abuse is:

-          Sexual abuse 29 (15.9%)

-          Physical abuse 36  (19.8 %)

-          Emotional abuse 12 (6.6 %)

-          Physical neglect 46 (25.3 %)

-          11 Neglect of education 22 (12.1 %)

-          Emotional neglect 25 (13.7 %)

-          Other forms of abuse 12 (6.6 %)

 The physical abuse and physical neglect is the biggest among 6-year old (Guda, 2008).

The negative influence of domestic violence on family structures and its consequences

The existing impression of Domestic Violence on the island of Aruba is that this is a big social problem in our community, like everywhere in the world  (Justitie, 2002[7];Bruinsma & Lunneman, 1996)[8] and that every day there are several cases of women maltreatment in Aruba although never an inquiry has been done on the magnitude of this problem. But how big is this problem really? We can only guess. It is a topic with a lot of taboo because people feel ashamed about what is happening at their home. Normally people would like to say that they are happy, that they have a good job and a good income; that the kids are doing very well at school and that love for each other reigns at home. Nobody likes to give publicity to familiar problems of any kind. Women that are battered by their husband or partner will hide the sad events occurring at home. They will only notify the police when things start to go bad and there is severe maltreatment of the wife and children or destruction of the furniture and goods of value belonging to the wife. It is hard for a woman to lodge a complaint against her husband or partner. No one would like his or her husband to be arrested and put in prison. Not only the fights between spouses and the battering are traumatic for women and especially for the children, but also to have to deal with the fact that your husband or father has been arrested and imprisoned. Nevertheless sometimes the domestic violence take such a dangerous dimension that intervention by the police is necessary, otherwise the result of relational violence or partner violence can lead to death of a person, being this in most cases the woman/wife/ mother. See (Wilson, 1997) and also (Beke & Bottenberg, 2003)[9]. In Aruba, on the 26th of March 2011, a jealous husband (34) shot his wife (31) 3 times in presence of her father and her child. Later that day he tried to commit suicide[10] (AMIGOE, 2011).

That is the reason why legal regulations have made intervention possible in private places like the home, making an exception to the human right of privacy stipulated in article 8 of the International Treaty of Rome on Human Rights. This intervention in privacy is also based on the fundamental rights mentioned in article I.5 juncto I.16 of the first Chapter of our Constitution[11], where is stipulated that government has the obligation to protect its citizens. Domestic violence is a crime and therefore punishable. Recently the Parliament in Holland approved a bill of law called  Landsverordering Tijdelijke Uithuisplaatsing[12], which stipulates that the husband who has battered his wife or has acted violently against his children has to leave the home, instead of the wife seeking refuge with her children in a shelter. (Lunnemann, 2003; Lunnemann & Romkens, 2009)[13].  In Aruba there is a similar bill of law at the Parliament that has not been approved yet.       

Domestic violence, especially against women, occurs in all the countries of the world and in all social classes, in all races, ethnic groups, in all religions and political affiliations and is based on the supremacy feeling of the man against the woman, what is called patriarchy.[14] In Aruba this is the same case. This supremacy feeling of the men over women is called “Machismo” from “macho”, a word derived from Spanish and meaning: man. Machismo is the result of a way of education based on gender inequality where men are considered superior to women. This superiority is manifested in granting men more rights like being the head of the household, the right to study, to work, the right to vote, the right to be a politician, to become a professional. Women were supposed to bear children and to do the house chores, to cook, to clean, to take care of the children and the pets and especially of “his majesty”. These were no tasks men had to do. Men and women were by no chance, equal creatures. (Jenainati & Groves, 2007) 

During the 18th and 19th centuries, some notable women, especially in the United Kingdom, followed by the United States, started to challenge their subordinate social position and demanded equal rights. This was the beginning of the struggle of the feminism movements against oppression by the men. The feminism movements succeeded in the changing of several laws and situations in favor of the women, but the struggle has not totally finished. Being a colony of Holland, Aruba took advantage of these positive changes and education for girls was introduced at school, even advanced education; job opportunities, even in governmental administration. Women started to educate themselves to such a level that nowadays girls and women in Aruba are better prepared academically, percentage wise, than boys and men.

The woman who has become a professional marries and gets children, but does not want to stay home without the possibility of practicing her profession. This is resulting to be one of the main causes of stress situations at home, because when the men, not being brought up learning to do chores at home, comes home from work, he does not help his wife with the tasks waiting for them when they reach home. The man will come home and go straight to a lazy boy to watch TV or to his bedroom to rest, while the wife, when reaching home, has to cook and clean, and take care of the children and the pets and even please “his majesty””. This is one of the main factors causing stress, fights, violence at home in Aruba (not yet proven empirically, but this is data from recent interviews with battered women) and ending up in divorce. In 2005 there were 100 divorces against 100 marriages during that year.[15] 

 Examples of negative influence of domestic violence:

  1. It is worldwide known that children, who have experienced domestic violence in one way or the other, may experience disruptions of normal development patterns that result in emotional, behavioral and cognitive problems. Their initial method of solving problems is by hitting and when they form their own family they will become batterers. (Wilson, 1997); (Bruinsma & Lunneman, 1996) The violent situation at home becomes then the origin of public violence. (Justitie, 2002). (Nieuwbeerta, Rakt, & Graaf, 2006)
  2. Their parents may physically abuse children. Approximately 70% of the men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children. (Wilson, 1997) There is no scientific study done in Aruba on this problem. Many times the breaking point for many battered women is when the batterer begins abusing the children. At this point, many women attempt to leave. (Wilson, 1997).
  3.  Disrupted families as a result of divorce. The percentage of one-parent households consisting of single mothers, children and sometimes one or both grandparents in Aruba, is very high. In 2008 it was 100% (Statistics, 2005)
  4. Children that have experienced violence at home cannot concentrate on their lessons in the classroom or on their homework because of the situation at home and as a result they will drop in performance. They often live in fear, confusion or pain. (Wilson, 1997)

The rate of dropouts in Aruba is increasing every year.

  1. Teenagers will develop a poor sexual image, uncertainty about appropriate behavior and immaturity in peer relationships. (Wilson, 1997). Often this will be the cause of teen pregnancy, which has been increasing the last ten years in Aruba.
  2.  Another problem being caused by divorce is the necessity for women of having to work because alimony money given by the children’s father will not be sufficient enough to cover debts and food and other necessities. The children have to come and be alone (latchkey children) which on itself causes several other problems for children like being abused by neighbors or known persons to the family, who are aware of the situation. These children are also exposed to other dangers as drug abuse, pornography, and the danger of being burned as a result of trying to cook food for themselves or for younger siblings.

        Conclusion and prevention

Domestic violence is the cause of several problems in our society. Not to mention the high costs of healthcare as a result of domestic violence. Hospital costs, psychological therapy and all sort of therapies.

1.      As we have seen, violent behavior is learned, and unfortunately it is often learned early in life, when the brain is making critical connections. Along with families, early childhood teachers and other caregivers can be crucial in protecting children from violence and supporting their healthy development. Just as they can learn to be violent, they can also learn through a loving relationship, to be good citizens, in self-control, patient and understanding. They learn constructive ways to solve problems, deal with disagreements and handle anger. With this early foundation of knowledge and skill, children are more likely to develop positive relations with other children, enjoy academic success, complete school, and lead more productive adult lives. [16]

2.      Do not ignore Media influences because violent heroes are shown to imitate and this increases aggressive behavior. It shows children that violence is an acceptable way to handle conflict. It makes it easy for children to ignore suffering and the bad effects of violence; causes fear, mistrusts, nightmares and the longing for more violence in more extreme forms. As parents, teachers and guides of children we should tell our children that violence in the media is not real and that real life violence hurts. Do not buy “violent” toys and games for children. We should encourage games that we play together; which are fun and educational. And we should protest against all the violent movies, toys and games that are being promoted and sold.  

3.      To break the circle of violence, judges are offering offenders/batterers behavior therapy to change their behavior and to understand the origin of their violent behavior and anger. Also victims and the whole family are being offered therapy that is called Restorative Justice. In a holistic approach, efforts are being done to teach people how to treat each other and care for each other. This is the only way to break the circle of violence and to contribute to a better world with less violence! (Morris, 2001)

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Jenainati, C., & Groves, J. (2007). Introducing Feminism. Cambridge, UK: Icon Books.

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Lunnemann, K., & Romkens, R. e. (2009 йил 17-april). Wie slaat, die gaat! Nederlands Juristenblad , pp. 940-946.

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Nieuwbeerta, P., Rakt, v., & Graaf, d. N. (2006 йил april, nr.48). Zo vader, zo zoon? Tijdschrift voor Criminologie , p. 345360.

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http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20060416/focus/focus2.html (n.d.).

 


[1] Common law union: parents live together, but are not legally married (Slideshare 2009)
[2] Divorces per 100 marriages is in 2006, 96.7%, in 2008, 78.5% and in 2008 73.1%  (CBS. 2010)
[3] Head of the family awg 410, --, each family member awg 175, -- and awg 100, -- for children of school age. Handicapped receive awg 850. (AB 1988 no. 88/AB 1991 no.89)
[4] Exact amount is not available IMF (2005)
[5] We have 5523 female-headed family on the island (CBS, 2005)
[6] Landsverordening A.B.2009 no. GT 60 (AB  2009 Ordinance No. 1960 GT)
 
[7] Prive geweld-Publieke zaak = Private violence-a public case. A report on preventing domestic violence in Holland
[8] Geweld binnen en buiten= Violence inside and outside (Lunnemann and Bruinsma, 2005)
[9] De vele gezichten van huiselijk geweld= The many faces of domestic violence (Beke, & Bottenberg, 2003)
[10] AMIGOE (a daily Dutch paper) 28th of March 2011
[11] Staatsregeling van Aruba; AB 1985,26; AB 1987,GT 1
[12] Wet Tijdelijke Uithuisplaatsing = Act: Temporary placing out of home
[13] Wie slaat, die gaat = He who hits, has to leave. (Lunnemann,  Romkens & Roos, 2009)
[14] “Patriarchal refers to power relations in which women’s interests are subordinated to the interests of men”(Jenainati, & Groves, 2007) 
[15] CBS Women of Aruba 2005
[16] Booklet developed by the American Psychological Association (APA) & the National Association for the education of young children (NAEYC) as part of the ACT = Adults and Children Together – Against Violence
USA 2002

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