Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on 20 February 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados. Her mother, Monica (Braithwaite), is a retired accountant of Afro-Guyanese background, and her father, Ronald Fenty, is a warehouse supervisor of Afro-Barbadian and Irish descent. Rihanna has two brothers, Rorrey and Rajad Fenty, and two half-sisters and a half-brother from her father's side, each born to different mothers from his previous relationships. She grew up in a three-bedroom bungalow in Bridgetown and sold clothes with her father in a stall on the street.
Rihanna's childhood was deeply affected by her father's addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol, which contributed to her parents' strained marriage. As a child, she went through a lot of CT scans for the excruciating headaches she suffered: "[The doctors] even thought it was a tumor, because it was that intense." By the time she was fourteen, Rihanna's parents had divorced and her health began to improve.
Rihanna grew up listening to reggae music and began singing at around the age of seven. She attended Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School and Combermere High School, where she studied alongside future England cricketer Chris Jordan and future West Indies cricketer Carlos Brathwaite. Rihanna was an army cadet in a sub-military programme; the singer-songwriter Shontelle was her drill sergeant. Although she initially wanted to graduate from high school, she chose to pursue a musical career instead.