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Current concerns in Jamaica as well as in many other western societies that families and family values are losing their strength, viability and influence are based on the long-held belief that the family unit is one of the most important social institutions. It is the first one in which primary socialisation of individuals normally occurs; it is expected to provide the nurturing, and integrative environment deemed necessary for the development of a properly functioning adult; it is supposed to provide the support networks critical for good health status, as well as its maintenance and management when required; and it has been recognised as an important and determining factor in the processes of economic development, wealth accumulation and individual economic advance. A harmonious family life has been almost an "object of veneration" . Not surprisingly therefore, social ills such as high and increasing poverty levels, juvenile delinquency, criminal behaviours, welfare dependency, and poor educational performance have frequently been linked to family forms and arrangements defined as "dysfunctional" .
Copyright Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies