Psychologist says slave past created bad Jamaican dads

(Jamaica Observer) Mandeville, Manchester — Family Psychologist Dr Barry Davidson has blamed slavery for the failure of many Jamaican men to adequately fulfil their role as fathers.

Davidson believes the legacy of enslavement of Caribbean people is why many “Afro-Jamaican” men from all classes of society are struggling to be good fathers. He believes many men, regardless of social class, were not taught or properly socialised to be good dads and noted that while the problem is mostly visible among the poor, it also exists among middle and upper-class Jamaican males who can provide financially for their children, but often neglect them emotionally.

“Fathers who should be important partners are too often absent from the parenting process. This situation demands that we pay particular attention to the issue of the psychology of the Jamaican male,” Davidson said recently while addressing the theme, Effective Parenting: Empowering for Life at Northern Caribbean University’s (NCU) 4th Biennial Conference of the College of Humanities, Behavioural and Social Sciences in Mandeville.

“The big challenge is to bring about a self-awareness on the part of our men. Self-awareness demands that we first understand the history of the Jamaican male. For some it is too painful to deal with, for others it is used as an excuse for irresponsibility. In slavery, men were only to be breeders and not fathers. For at least 179 years (from British conquest to emancipation) the male slaves were robbed of their birthright of learning to be proper fathers and providers. They could not as easily pass on virtues and facts of fatherhood to their sons by example or oral tradition. Family psychology informs us that the problems from parents to children pass several generations.”

However, he feels that although single-parent, mainly female-headed households are predominant in Jamaica, it is the desire of most Jamaican men to be protectors and providers for their families, and loving fathers and disciplinarians for their children.

Davidson said that men suffer mentally when they are not able to fulfil their roles as fathers and this results in what he describes as the “male pain”. This male pain, he said, drives them to relationships with “outside” women where no deep commitment or responsibility is required; to being abusive to their partners; drug and alcohol use; or being a workaholic, among other negative behaviour.

Custos Rotulorum of Manchester Sally Porteous agreed with the psychologist, telling the gathering, “it cannot be denied that the breakdown of parenting has contributed to the kind of angry, violent and deviant behaviour that exists in our society today. In my political life, I have seen too many broken homes, stressed mothers and absent, drunken fathers. This revolving door of reckless behaviour and irresponsibility that has become the norm is terrifying and in the midst of it all, are children, alone and frightened, living in a kind of emotional vacuum, struggling to exist among all of this.”

Dr Davidson, who is also Chief Executive Officer of the Family Life Ministries said that “almost all Jamaican males, despite their behaviour, have the inner potential to be responsible fathers” and the church is one institution which can help in improving the “self-image” of men.

“Mentoring is what we would have to do in the churches. It is all well and good to preach to people and excite people but we need to do some practical stuff when young men come into the church. Help them later to become fathers, help them to become husbands,” he said.

He noted that effective parents are men and women who “are prepared to invest time with their children to ensure their optimal emotional, psychological, social and spiritual development.”




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