FAMILY AND KINSHIP STRUCTURE
Main Street, Georgetown, with the Cenotaph, a memorial to those who
died in the World Wars, in the foreground
Courtesy Leslie B. Johnson, Sr.
Central business district, Main Street, Georgetown
Courtesy Embassy of Guyana, Washington
The Africans brought to Guyana as slaves came from cultures
with highly developed family systems. Slavery had a devastating
effect on African social life and especially on family structures.
Spouses could be separated, children could be sold away from their
mothers, and sexual exploitation by planters was common. Although
legal marriage was forbidden to the slaves, Africans attempted to
sustain relationships between men and women and their children.
The monogamous nuclear family is but one family structure
accepted among Afro-Guyanese. Although the Christian church wedding
has become a important popular ideal, it is more likely to be
achieved by middle-class than by lower-class Afro-Guyanese. For
many, a church wedding comes not at the beginning of a union, but
as a sort of culmination of a relationship. Many common-law
marriages are recognized socially but lack the status of a legal
wedding. Afro-Guyanese, especially in the lower socioeconomic
groups, may have a series of relationships before entering into a
legal or common-law marriage. Some such relationships do not entail
the establishment of a separate household. The children of such
relationships live with one of the parents, usually the mother.
Because of the variety of conjugal relationships that AfroGuyanese adults may form over the course of their lives, the
composition of households varies. They may be headed by fathers or
mothers and may include children from several parents.
Afro-Guyanese households tend to be clustered around females rather
than males because the men frequently leave their homes in search
of paid work. A three-generation household is likely to include
daughters with children whose fathers are away or do not live in
the household. Children born out of wedlock are not stigmatized.
Data as of January 1992