Dysfunctional Nuclear Families and the Jamaican Murder Rate

Dear Editor:

I write in reference to the recent debate regarding the cause of the high murder and violent crime rate in Jamaica. The causes of high violent crime rates are usually analyzed in terms of, inter alia, lower socioeconomic levels, lower educational attainment, and political instability. However, due to the fact that other poor, uneducated and unstable nations have significantly lower violent crime rates, I suggest that these factors do not adequately explain the murder phenomenon in Jamaica.

Although it is not based on empirical evidence, I observe that the high crime rate in Jamaica may be strongly linked to a pattern of fractured family structures. There is a national cultural trend of deadbeat dads with the sexual responsibility of rabbits conceiving children with little financial or social commitment to their children.

Unfortunately, the economic and legal systems seem unable to counter-balance this degenerative behaviour by providing adequate mandatory support for child care. The pattern of poor, uneducated, and younger persons having children, without the means of adequately caring for them economically or psychologically undermines nation-building because of the resulting lack of resources, support and stability. If the fractured family structure is at least a principal contributor to crime, then targeting policing and incarceration will without addressing this cause will not adequately combat crime.

The solution to the problem of fractured families is family planning to lower the birth rate, while increasing the commitment to child development. In other nations, patterns exist in which individuals actually wait until they are best able to support their children before they begin their families. There is no society that progresses with a high birth rate.

In contrast, the largest segment of the Jamaican population consists of economic-dependents under the age of twenty four. This group is largely seen as relatively uneducated and unskilled, in the context of high unemployment and underemployment. Of course, this group is perpetuated by these young individuals conceiving more dependent babies.

It is important to note that all family forms that provide care and promote the well-being of its members should be valued. Fractured family structures should never be confused with alternatives to the nuclear family. Time and effort are only wasted in labeling, stigmatizing and discriminating against people unjustly based on the form and not the substance of one’s family. Functional alternatives and ideologies to traditional institutions must be adopted in a changing world, rather than making the futile attempt to maintain the ideals of the past.

Long-term reciprocal financial and social-psychological commitment and support constitute the essence of a family and may be given in many forms such as: extended families and civil unions. In fact, with the incidence of domestic violence, abuse and incest, a functional family form alternative should be preferred to a dysfunctional nuclear family.

Antonn Brown,
Mandeville, Manchester


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