IndexAmericasCaribbean, Middle / Central AmericaWest IndiesJamaica



Green[1] characterises the rural lower class pattern as follows:


“Sex training in these Jamaican communities [Rocky Roads, Mocca, Negril, FarquharBeach] does not follow dependence-independence patterns. It is relatively unimportant. Mothers shelter their daughters so that pregnancies will not produce too many mouths to feed- thus undermining economic security- and there is no masculine-feminine modes of behavior, virginity, or fecundity” (p42).


In a study by MacCormack and Draper (1987)[2], virtually half of female respondents stated a girl passes to the status of Woman at menarche; a quarter stated it coincided with pregnancy, and 6% stated it occurred with the beginning of sex relations. According to data by Roberts and Sinclair (1978:p80)[3] menarche occurred at a mean age of 14.21 in women under twenty-five, suggesting a one years’ drop over a single generation. According to Brody (1981)[4], 28% of girls received no information on menarche prior to its first occurrence. Other studies confirm that girls are told very little about menstruation and sex before their first occurrence (Clarke, 1957[5]:p98; Roberts and Sinclair, 1978:p109, 111; Allen, 1982[6]:p26, Thompson, 1982[7]:p27, 30; cf. Blake, 1961[8]:p52-6. 72, 76-9; Greenfeld, 1966[9]:p108-9; Kerr, 1963:p39-41, 67, 80[10]). As an older source reveals, “[a]t home the attitude of the parents towards sex instruction and masturbation vary. Most mothers tend to avoid giving sex instruction […]. There is definitely a reticence to discuss sexual matters with children […] Masturbation is sometimes regarded as an evil [in that it] will impair the virility of the child later on […]. Some parents, however, “will deliberately encourage their children in premature sexual activities, even with each other”. A girl relates: “[…] I never heard anything from anybody and had to find out things for myself. […] I never even know what he was doing until he get it in there” (Blake). Puberty may be “the beginning of the period of sex experimentation” (Hendriques, 1953:p131, 133)[11]. “ ‘Boys are not taught as much as girls’. They were not punished as are the girls if their early sex experimentation was discovered, nor did they receive any instruction from their fathers as to the responsibilities of paternity” (Clarke, 1957 [1979:p98]).

Blake (p89-90) mentioned that girls aged 14 engaged in sexual intercourse with mature men upon the bestowal of rather minor gifts, such as a chocolate candy bar. However, it was argued by Sanford (1975:p161-2)[12] that the girls were rarely taken advantage of.


Boys’ masturbation [genital play, DJ.] is, unlike early sexual experiences, not admitted by mothers, who indicate that they will stop it if seen. One mother would flog the children, reasoning they would “hurt” themselves (Kerr, p41).


Coitarche tends to be scheduled in early adolescence. Olenick reported a low mean coitarchal age of 13.4 for sexually experienced male respondents in 1997 (opposing a mean of 15.9 for females)[13]. According to data collected in the mid-1970s, Brody found that 87.3% of girls had coitache at ages 14-19, the youngest being 9. In a sample of women attending antenatal clinics, Mukerjee (1982:p23)[14] found that 29% had their first experience at age 15 or younger. In a similar survey, Allen (1982:p29) found that the youngest was 11 and the mode was 14, some three years earlier than girls’ mothers. In a comparative study of young women from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Murphy (1982:p23)[15] found a range of ages for first intercourse from 7 to 18, with a modal age of 15 (cf. Rubenstein, 1987:p263-4) [16][[17]]. In a study reported by Warren et al. (1988) of sexually experienced adolescents (ages 14-24; 46.8% of males before age 14, 15.3% of females before age 14), first sexual intercourse occurred before age ten in 14.7% (M) and 0.5% (F); at age ten in 10.8% (M) and 0.4% (F); at age eleven in 6.3% (M) and 1.2%), and at age twelve in 13.5% (M) and 4.5% (F). Mean ages were 14.3 (M) and 16.9 (F); mean ages of first partners were 13.2 for males and 19.7 for females. It was hypothesised that females referred to experiences at occurred later than actual sexarche, and that males were bragging (p138).


Reporting on a 1995 study on 945 Jamaican students aged 11-14 (Eggleston et al., 1999[18]; cf. Jackson et al., 1998:p26ff)[19], 5.8% of girls and 64.4% of boys reported sexual intercourse. The mean ages indicated were as low as 11.3 (girls) and 9.4 (boys). “Forty-five percent of boys reporting sexual activity claimed they first had sexual intercourse at age nine or younger. This unlikely finding suggests that boys overreported their sexual experience. Only four of the 28 girls who reported having had sex said they had intercourse prior to ten” (p81).


“In each group, some boys insisted that a boy might have sex at age eight or nine or younger. A boy at a rural school related how sex at this age might occur: “A boy and a girl a play dolly house- the boy the father and the girl the mother. Them a sleep and things get outta hand. Him start feel her up, you know, them take off clothes, kissing go on…him push it in, she start cry” (ibid.).


While survey material typically indicated that girls thought that sexual intercourse should await ages 21 for boys and 22 for girls (boys stated that both sexes should wait till age 20), a “sizable proportion” of boys in discussion groups indicated “that a boy should have sex by age 12 or 13” (p80). Boy’s intercourse experience is met with high status among peers; girls are not likely to tell peers, since they would be accused of being called sketels [sluts]. Of course, neither sex is going to tell parents.

In a follow-up study (Eggleston, et al., 2000)[20], it was revealed that boys were nearly 14 times more likely to report their sexual experience inconsistently.

Cohen (1955:p279-80, 284)[21] stated that, although flogged for a variety of reasons,


“[t]here is never any parental interference with erotic or genital play during infancy, childhood or adolescence, save for the imposition of the incest taboo during late infancy. Infants and children, both boys and girls, masturbate frequently and openly without any evidence of guilt and shame. At no time are they punished, teased, or praised by their parents for their autoeroticism; the parents are aware of the erotic play of their children, but never comment on it. […] Masturbation ceases completely, according to observation and the reports of parents, at about the age of four years and is rarely resumed in adolescence or adulthood. […] Premarital sexual intercourse begins at puberty for boys and girls. There seems to be few indications of anxiety or guilt surrounding sexual behavior in Rocky Roads”.




 Additional refs:


·        CRLP (1997) Women of the World: Laws and Policies Affecting Their Reproductive Lives: Latin America and the Caribbean, p126-44. Also id., Progress Report, 2000, p54-62

·        http://www.interpol.int/Public/Children/SexualAbuse/NationalLaws/csaJamaica.asp





Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology

Last revised: Dec 2004


[1] Green, H. B. (1960)Comparison of nurturance and independence training in Jamaica and Puerto Rico, with consideration of the resulting personality structure and transplanted social patterns,J Soc Psychol 51:27-63

[2] MacCormack, C. P. & Draper, A. (1987) Social and cognitive aspects of female sexuality in Jamaica, in Caplan, P. (Ed.) The Cultural Construction of Sexuality. London & New York: Tavistock Publ., p143-65

[3] Roberts, G. W. & Sinclair, S. A. (1978) Women in Jamaica. Millwood, NY: KTO Press

[4] Brody, E. (1981) Sex, Contraception and Motherhood in Jamaica. Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press

[5] Clarke, S. C. (1957) My Mother Who Fathered Me.London: George Allen & Unwin

[6] Allen, S. M. (1982) Adolescent Pregnancy among 11-15 Year Old Girls in the Parish of Manchester. Diss., University of the West Indies

[7] Thompson, T. (1982) Views of 13-15 Year Olds in High and Secondary School in Hanover Concerning their Parents / Guardians as Sex Educators. Diss., University of the West Indies

[8] Blake, J. (1961) Family Structure in Jamaica. New York: Glencoe

[9] Greenfeld, S. M. (1966) English Rustics in Black Skin. New Haven: College & University Press. “Repeated admonitions about “staying away from boys”, young informants complained, never include a discussion of “what to stay away from” ”.

[10] Kerr, M. (1963) Personality and Conflict in Jamaica. London: Collins

[11] Hendriques, F. (1953) Family and Colour in Jamaica. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode

[12]Sanford, M. (1975) To be treated as a child of the home, in Williams, Th. R. (Ed.) Socialzation and Communication in Primary Groups. The Hague & Paris: Mouton, p159-81

[13] Olenick, I. (1999) Among Young Jamaicans, Sex and Childbearing Often Begin During Adolescence, Intl Fam Plann Perspect 25,4:206-7

[14] Mukerjee, D. (1982) A Study of the Characteristics and Communit Leadership Role of Family Planning Acceptors Attending the Community Health Centre [etc.]. Diss., University of the West Indies

[15] Murphy, V. J. (1982) Factors Associated with Adolescent Pregnancy in St. Vincent and the Grendaines. Diss., University of the West Indies

[16] Rubenstein, H. (1987) Coping With Poverty. Boulder: Westview Press. “Children learn the rudiments of sexual behavior either by eavesdropping on the coversations of adults, through information imparted by older friends, or through youthful experimentation with another child. Initiation into sexual activity is variable. A few girls are sexually active by the age of 10, sometimes with men many times their senior, and a few boys begin to experiment, usually with girls several years older than them, from about the age of eight. Most villagers, however, do not begin full sexual activity until their mid teens”.

[17] Warren, Ch. W., Powell, D., Morris, L., Jackson, J. & Hamilton, P. (1988) Fertility and Family Planning Among Young Adults in Jamaica, Int Fam Plann Perspect 14,4:137-41. See also Morris, L. (1988) Young Adults in Latin America and the Caribbean: Their Sexual Experience and Contraceptive Use, Int Fam Plann Perspect 14,4:153-8

[18] Eggleston, E., Jackson, J. & Hardee, K. (1999) Sexual Attitudes and Behavior Among Young Adolescents in Jamaica, Int Fam Plann Perspect 25,2:78-84, 91

[19] Jackson, J., Leitch, J. & Lee, A. (July, 1998) The Jamaica Adolescent Study. Final Report. Women’s Studies Project, Family Health International Research Triangle Park, NC, USA

[20] Eggleston, E., Leitch, J. & Jackson, J. (2000) Consistency of Self-Reports of Sexual Activity among Young Adolescents in Jamaica, Int Fam Plann Perspect 26,2:79-83

[21] Cohen, Y. A. (1955) Character formation and social structure in a Jamaican community, Psychiatry 18,3:275-96