Most Jamaican families are headed by women, a tradition that grew out of colonial times, when slaves were not permitted to marry and raise families together. Mothers bear the primary responsibility for supporting children, as well as raising them. Marriage is less common in Jamaica than other countries. Couples often wait until their children are grown before marrying, and even then, they face the high cost of a ceremony and reception.

Jamaicans adore children. About one-third of Jamaican women have their first child during adolescence. Women often raise children alone or in extended families; whatever the arrangement, relatives and neighbours are expected to help with child care in Jamaican communities. Most fathers contribute to the support of their children, but often play a smaller role in child-rearing. Men and women frequently have children with more than one partner; consequently, many Jamaican families are blended. Jamaica is a country of young people, with 40% of the population under 15 years of age.

Almost half of Jamaican women work outside the home as professionals, in factories or as domestic helpers. Grandmothers play important roles in families, providing care for their daughters' and sons' children, especially if the parents work during the day.

About 60% of Jamaicans live in rural areas, farming plots of land for subsistence and income, as well as working elsewhere. Homes tend to be simple and easily damaged by storms. While some Jamaicans live in comfortable homes, urban conditions are crowded, particularly in poorer areas, and in the absence of other housing, some families resort to squatting. In slums, families live in small houses made of wood or corrugated metal.

Poor economic prospects have led large numbers of Jamaicans to emigrate in the hope of improving their quality of life elsewhere. Many have moved to North America or the United Kingdom.

  Did you know?
After the birth of a child, some rural Jamaicans bury the placenta and umbilical cord in the ground, then plant a sapling over the spot. The tree is known as the baby's tree or "navel-string" tree.

  Did you know?
Some Jamaicans hold nine-day wakes for deceased persons. The wake is a time for respecting and honoring the departed soul. For nine nights, relatives and friends share food and sing hymns, thus saying goodbye to the departed one.