Human Fertility in Latin America: Sociological Perspectives

By J. Mayone Stycos | Go to book overview

12
Norms and Sexual Relations in Jamaica

One of the characteristic features of reproduction in Latin America is the righ rate of illegitimacy evidenced by many countries. To a large extent this is due to frequency of de facto or consensual unions. While in many instances these unions are as stable as legal marriages, on the whole they are less stable. The consequences of this fact for fertility have only recently been realized.

In the English-speaking Caribbean, both illegitimacy rates and the instability of conjugal unions have been particularly high, making this area especially interesting for the study of fertility. The theory popular among many intellectuals of the region is that high rates of promiscuity produce high fertility. Lower-class sexual behavior is largely seen as instinctive and uninhibited by norms, reproduction as a generally desirable by-product of the carefree mingling of the sexes.

This idyllic view of the lower classes has only a vague resemblance to the true situation, for there are norms about sexual behavior and reproduction not so different from middle-class norms. These norms do affect behavior, and do in fact both directly and indirectly limit fertility. As we will see in the following section, the norms affect the frequency of sexual relations both within and outside of marriage, while the very instability of the unions reduces the exposure to conception.

In Chapter 9 we reported briefly the results of a national

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