Study Notes

Tracy Reynolds (2002): Analysing the Black Family


Last updated 8 Oct 2021

This study note summarises the key findings of this study into family diversity and ethnicity that challenges some outdated studies about the black family.

  • Reynolds rejects the idea of lone-parent black Caribbean families having no ‘father figure’.
  • Not all Caribbean families are matrifocal – greater diversity of family types based upon cultural traditions of Caribbean islands.
  • Jamaican families less conformist to traditional models, nuclear families more common in Barbados and Antigua Lone-parent females may be in visiting relationships – where they have a male partner who lives outside of the family home, but provides support and takes an active part in family life when present.

What does this explain?

Explains higher rate of lone-parent families from black Caribbean backgrounds and can be used to criticise views of absentee fathers in black families.

How is this achieved?

Visiting relationships do not conform to ‘Western’ ideas of relationships and therefore do not fit neatly into ONS definitions of households, being neither cohabitation nor lone-parent. Visiting relationships are often a step towards common-law families or nuclear families, however, tradition of marriage has differing levels of relevance in different Caribbean islands.

What evidence is there to support this?

Further supported by Barrow (1982) who suggests three typical forms of family: nuclear families, common-law families and mother households.

How might we evaluate this idea?

Berthold et al (2000) suggested that black Caribbean families are most adaptive to change – with more black Caribbean males in mixed ethnicity partnerships (48%)

Visiting relationships: Family headed by a female who has a male partner who plays a full and active role in the family when he is in the family home

Matrifocal families: Families led by and centred on females

Lone parent families: One parent and their dependent children

Download a handout summary of Tracy Reynolds (2002): Analysing the Black Family

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