Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry
In Western societies, mothering and fathering are generally conceptualized as distinct social roles, marriage being considered as the institution which provides the best framework for child-rearing (nuclear family model). Yet it is important that health care practitioners recognize that children can be successfully raised in very diverse types of family organizations, including extended female-headed families. Although at first sight the extended family model appears to be lacking in male models and therefore seems to be defective, this article asserts that functional extended matrifocal Caribbean families can resourcefully respond to the child's fundamental socialization needs, and the paternal role is often adequately fulfilled in a variety of ways (by fathers as well as other persons) in these families. However, when social isolation, migration, or specific psychological or developmental problems interfere in the family's ability to father the child, mental health professionals should base their interventions on treatment models that promote the reconstruction of a functional extended family network and apply more flexible concepts of "fatherhood" than those dictated by the nuclear family model. Case illustrations are presented to depict the experience of French Caribbean families. (Author abstract) 30 references.
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