Familiy history

Historical changes and regional differences on that what is called a “family”

Term Paper, 2004

13 Pages, Grade: 2,0



1. Introduction

2. Marriage patterns
2.1 Marriage patterns from the past to the present
2.2 Regional differences between marriage habits
2.2.1 The European pattern
2.2.2 The Eastern European pattern
2.2.3 The Non-European pattern
2.3 Recent data on marriage

3. The Family
3.1 Changes of family life
3.2 The “invention of childhood”

4. Conclusion

5. Literature

1 . Introduction

This paper is written for the seminar “Family Sociology”. The theme of “Family History” I chose, covers the main topics of marriage patterns and a comparison of family and childhood issues of the past, to those of the present.

In this work I will point out the historical changes and regional differences on that what is called a “family”:

First up I will shortly illustrate the development of the European pattern from Greco-Roman times until now, and I will introduce the main marriage patterns which are spread worldwide, namely the European pattern, the Eastern European pattern and the Non-European pattern.

Then I will show how the meaning of family has changed. Not only is the structure another one compared to former times, but also has something new been created: a period called “childhood” which is different from the rest of the life course, regarding children no longer as smaller adults, but as something special.

The developments on family history go hand in hand to changes of society like the industrialization or the creation of a welfare state.

Since normative standards declined marriage is just one possibility to live together, still the most common, but steadily loosing importance. Meanwhile divorce rates have been increasing since the end of the nineteenth century and contraceptive measures have been introduced.

So obviously this, what is called a family is more flexible than ever, creating the so called “patchwork-family”, which may consist of one single parent and children, two spouses with children they have from a former relationship with another person, or even a homosexual couple with children. Nowadays there is a new tolerance for what is called a “family”. Usually talking about “family” today means referring to the “nuclear family”.

According to Berger (2002, 6) the nuclear family consisting of a married couple and a child (or children), was taken for granted in all societies of the West for the central institution of modern life, held to be superior to any other family form long into the early decades of the twentieth century.

Family life is also influenced by factors like urban or rural living, religion and region.

And so is marriage; this will be demonstrated as follows:

2. Marriage patterns

According to Hajnal (1965, 105) marriage means roughly the entry into a legal union which is regarded as appropriate for the bearing and rearing of children in the society in question.

Marriage does not mean the same in all cultures, at least not comparing statistics regarding different marriage habits of several countries to one another. There are different forms of martial unions like monogamy and polygamy and strong regional differences. For example in India child marriage is traditional and there are two steps of the marriage ceremony, which take place at different moments. And even after the second marriage ceremony often the girl returns to her parents’ house and joins her husband not until weeks, months or even a year later (see Hajnal 1965, 105). So comparison of marriage of distinct cultures seems quite difficult. How come those different patterns developed? Before describing the main marriage patterns, I will focus on the European marriage habits since the ancient world to the present, based on Hajnal’s study (1965, 106 ff.).

2.1 Marriage patterns from the past to the present

The Greco- Roman World

Inscriptions on tombstones state the age at death and often the number of years he or she has been married. The population had according to the tombstone records and to the “censuses” of Roman Egypt a marriage pattern of Non-European type.

According to the data from Roman Egypt, husbands were usually considerably older than their wives.

The Roman writer Tacitus mentions a difference between the Germanic marriage pattern and that of the Romans: “The love life of men begins late (…) Nor are the girls rushed. Their life in youth is same, their stature similar.”

The male Jews of Talmudic times probably did not marry young, because the Talmud states: “A man should first built a house, then plant a vineyard and after that marry”.


Excerpt out of 13 pages


Familiy history
Historical changes and regional differences on that what is called a “family”
University of Bamberg
Family in the life course
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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546 KB
Familiy, Family
Quote paper
Ursula Ebenhöh (Author), 2004, Familiy history, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/86008


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