By Pilar Montes
HAVANA TIMES — Population aging is characteristic of so-called developed countries owing to the socio-economic conditions typical of these countries. However, Cuba, which isn’t remotely close to being a developed nation, also faces this phenomenon.
We are seeing a demographic trend that advances somewhat erratically, adults over 60 today constitute one fifth of the population (officially estimated at 11.2 million).
The country, obliged to implement a sustainable economic development model in the presence of growing interest in the country from foreign investors, must urgently adopt policies that encourage population growth and acknowledge the impact that the emigration of young people has had in this connection.
All aspects of the problem are being analyzed and it was recently a thesis subject in the faculty of psychology. A case in point is Selene Nieto Meriño’s graduation project, based on research on the effects of intimacy on the human couple.
Interviewed about this paper that earned her the highest grade in her graduation class and a recommendation for publication by the panel of professors, Selena points out that “An adequate population replacement process must confront, among other challenges, the current tendencies that prevail among marriages, and academic tools are being developed in Cuba to ensure longer-lasting families.”
“The duration of heterosexual relations (the ones that produce children and contribute to population replacement) is estimated at around a mere 5 years. Cuba is among the first four countries with the highest divorce rates in the world.”
Selene explained that “the information, education and concerns surrounding this issue continue to be rewarding, as Cuban society promotes the wellbeing and happiness of the family.”
“Intimacy is the state in which people profess positive feelings, share ideas, attitudes and behaviors freely, in an atmosphere of reciprocal acceptance, commitment, tenderness and trust,” the psychologist explains.
Sitting at the Cadenas square in the University of Havana campus, Selene added that “in contrast to passion, intimacy is an intellectual process of construction and, consequently, a pattern of behavior. In this sense, it constitutes a valuable tool for promoting longer relationships, whether they figure in the Civil Registry or a religious ceremony or not.”
At the theoretical level, she underscored that “emotional intimacy works at five levels, including the spiritual and dream realms, that is, the domain referring to a couple’s shared projects.”
“Intimacy is based on ten key elements,” Selene adds. “Mutual trust within the couple, that is to say, the trust each places on the other, and the ability to listen and bear the other’s points of view in mind, are among the most important.”
The other elements are honesty, respect, commitment, security, generosity, loyalty, reciprocity, reliance, understanding and acceptance, Selene explained.
“Intimate relations are not free from contradictions or even crises,” the young psychologist stresses, “but, if we hope to make marriages last longer, we must assess citizens’ global appreciation of the role of intimacy in these.”
“The study outlined in my theses,” she said, “reveal results that establish a direct link between emotional intimacy and the duration of relationships, that the greater the intimacy, the longer the duration of the relationship, and vice-versa.”
“Greater intimacy and mutual understanding within the couple facilitates the decision to start a family and contribute to population replacement, even when such life projects are discouraged by economic problems, low wages, lack of housing and the need to care for elderly parents or relatives,” the researcher acknowledges with some sadness.
“Nevertheless, greater commitment within couples will always contribute to longer relationships and stronger families and thus greater opportunities for demographic renewal in the country,” Selene concludes as the sun hides behind the clouds and offers respite to rosy-cheeked tourists taking photos nearby.
For the time being, Selene dreams of consecrating her own plans of having a honeymoon in Varadero, find a job in the short term and also have children, in the mid-term.
Faced with the pressing challenge of impelling population replacement, Cuba looks to more legislative and economic solutions in the hopes of encouraging the having of children, through the guarantee of a decorous home for those who chose to start a family.