Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Alex Stepick

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Janice Allen-Kelsey

Third Advisor's Name

Stephen Fjellman

Date of Defense



Jamaican family structures have long felt the impact of unstable internal economic conditions and high volume of labor demands originating from England, Canada, the United States, and other larger societies. In response to the economic conditions and labor demands, increasing numbers of Jamaican women have migrated away from home, both within Jamaica and to other countries. Subsequently, many Jamaicans' households are restructured using a method called child shifting. This refers to "the relocation of children between households." Using three major theoretical paradigms: cultural diffusion, social pathology, and structural functionalism, this study explores the literature of child shifting to understand how economic conditions influence matrifocal families and in particular their child rearing practices.

This study employs the structural functionalism paradigm's focus on "adaptive responses" to find plausible explanations for child shifting patterns. The primary premise of the "adaptive responses" approach is that economic marginality leads to certain adaptive responses in residential, kinship, and child rearing patterns.

This study finds certain adjustment problems associated with child shifting. These include shifted children developing feelings of abandonment, of anxiety, of loss, and having difficulty trusting after the shifting occurs. These costs may outweigh the benefits of child shifting.





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