Domestic and Kinship Networks of Some American-Born Children of Haitian Immigrants
Linda Gutwirth-Winston Graduate School of the City University of New York
This chapter focuses on the domestic and kinship networks of some Americanborn children of Haitian immigrants in the New York metropolitan area. Its aim is to enlarge our understanding of the influence of social networks on the development of social competence in children by providing comparative data from a group in which (1) a child is never just a child of one mother and father but, rather, the child of an entire set of kin; and (2) children typically spend no more time with their mothers than with others in the extended family, including many adults and children of varying ages.
Cultural patterns developed in the Haitian homeland, with its West African heritage and its subsequent experience under slavery and postslavery conditions, underlie the residential and caregiving patterns observed among children of Haitian immigrants in the New York area.
For Haitians, both in the homeland and in the immigrant community, the notion of "family" is generally not restricted to parents and siblings but encompasses a wider group of kin who are related both to each other and to the ancestral lands in which they share claims. Haitian childhood usually includes periods of residence in more than one household within a set of interrelated and interacting families. Indeed, the expression for "child" or "children" -- ti moune, in Haitian Creole -- refers also to the custom of sending rural children to live with town families, generally families belonging to the children's extended kin set, for educational or employment opportunities.