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Slavery contributed to poor fathers, says psychologist

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer Staff Reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com
Wednesday, April 04, 2012


MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Family Psychologist Dr Barry Davidson believes that though single parent households mainly headed by women 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.

However, he said because of the legacy of enslavement of Caribbean people, many "Afro-Jamaican" men from all classes of the society are struggling to adequately fulfil their role as fathers because they were not taught or properly socialised.

He said that while the problem is most visible among the poor, it also exists among middle and upper-class Afro-Jamaican males who can provide financially for their children but often neglect them emotionally.

Davidson was speaking at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville recently on the theme 'Effective Parenting: Empowering for Life' at the 4th Biennial Conference.

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"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," he said.

"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 generation," Dr Davidson added.

The family psychologist 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 further drives them to "outside" women where no deep commitment or responsibility is required, to being abusive to their partners, activities such as drug and alcohol use or being a workaholic and other such activities.

Custos Rotulorum of Manchester Sally Porteous agreed with Davidson, 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."

Davidson, who is also chief executive officer of the Family Life Ministries, said that "almost all Jamaican male, 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.

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