Blueprint: A happy family environment helps to produce productive members of society that contribute to our collective economic growth and wellbeing. *MCT photo
Blueprint: A happy family environment helps to produce productive members of society that contribute to our collective economic growth and wellbeing. *MCT photo

FRIDAY, NOV. 09: BEST’s Blueprint on sustainable development aims to outline what it means to be a sustainable community and what it will take to get there.

Over the coming weeks the Bermuda Sun will continue publishing the text of the Blueprint, section by section.


 

The economic difficulties that Bermuda is struggling with at the moment, are putting greatly increased pressure on the family, as many parents face declining income and rising costs. Helping agencies are seeing unprecedented demand for their services, and many, including Governmental Assistance Programmes, are being stretched beyond capacity. What measures must be put in place to achieve a sustainable lifestyle, resilient to the market forces?

Socialisation is the process by which children learn how to function in a society.

As a primary agent of socialisation, family plays a critical role in shaping the life and behaviour of an individual. At a basic level, a stable, caring and low-stress family environment helps to produce happy and productive members of society that contribute to our collective economic wellbeing and are more likely to care about their environment.  The traditional family unit in Bermuda has been losing ground. The 2010 Census of Population and Housing revealed small increases in the proportions of people divorced and those never married. Also revealed was that 22 per cent of Bermudian women give birth to their first child while still in their teens. A recent documentary by the Coalition for the Protection of Children revealed that 50 per cent of all black female-headed households with children were living at or below the poverty line in 2000, a percentage that is not likely to have improved as the economy has eroded since then.   

While a stable, caring family unit is a factor in providing both financial and emotional support, there are other support systems that can assist in producing untroubled and contributing members of society where the traditional family unit is not in place. In support of the role community can play, a young Bermudian college graduate wrote, “I was ‘raised in a village’ — a network of people helped my single mother raise me, and loved us without seeking any compensation in return. Teachers invested countless hours in making sure I would be a success, and pushed me when I wouldn’t have pushed myself. Elders kept me in check in the presence and absence of my mother. People took interest in me and told me that I could do or be anything I wanted to be. People loved and supported me — but they also disciplined me if necessary and helped shape my character.”

Village

This concept of “villages”, in which everyone in the community loves and in some way supports their neighbours and their neighbours’ children, has a role to play for some of the more vulnerable family structures (such as single-parent households) to be able to function successfully. As economic pressures have increased, and single-parent and two-parent families have had to work even longer hours to keep a roof over their families’ heads, it is likely that these “villages” are now more important than ever.

BEST supports a re-valuing of the traditional family unit alongside a strengthening of the “village”, the community. We would also support that instruction of life skills be included in all school curriculums starting in primary school, with similar services being universally available and easily accessed throughout life to help families with parenting skills, managing finances, accessing quality health care, and improving job and other basic skills.

This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell.

NEXT: Housing - Reconciling affordable housing, markets and open space.