Bavarians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The "traditional" Bavarian farm family was patrilineal, patrilocal, patriarchal, and extended. Bilateral kinship predominates in modern Bavaria, although the wife usually takes the family name of her husband after marriage. Marriage. Prior to 1800, marriage in Bavaria was relatively pragmatic, often occurring as a result of pregnancy. One illegitimate child was tolerated, but repeated illegitimacy was not. Stringent laws controlling marriage were passed in the 1800s in an attempt to control the sudden population explosion, causing a sudden rise in illegitimate births. Gradually, the excess population was absorbed by newly developing industries, and the laws were rescinded. In 1977, 7.4 percent of births were illegitimate, 1.7 percent fewer than in 1960. Marriage has declined significantly since 1900 in spite of population increase, with some fluctuation in response to wars, recessions, and economic recovery. Conversely, divorces have increased sharply from 435, or 1.2 percent of all marriages, in 1900 to 18,352, or 27.5 percent, in 1986. In 1977 the average age for marriage in Bavaria was 25.9 for single males and 23.1 for single females, a rate relatively stable since 1960. Domestic Unit. The basic elements of Bavarian family life revolved around a strong conservatism, a deep faith in the Roman Catholic church, a belief in strict discipline, and the ideal of having many children. The family might include the grandparents, retired and living in separate quarters; the active son, his wife, and their unmarried children; renters or tenants; unmarried male and female servants; and widowed or destitute family members. In postwar Bavaria, elderly parents often live in apartments in their children's home or farm.

Inheritance. Beginning in the fifteenth century the Government passed a series of laws in Old Bavaria requiring unigeniture, which is still common today. Although all heirs have equal claim to the inheritance, only one may own the farm. Conversely, in Franconia, partible inheritance was customary. As a result, by the 1800s, moderate-sized family farms predominated in Old Bavaria, while large landed estates and extremely small, fragmented farmsteads of less than 1 hectare were common in Franconia. In postwar Bavaria it has been difficult to find anyone willing to take over small holdings.

Socialization. Traditional farm discipline was strict and involved corporal punishment. It was common for children aged 6 or 7 to be sent away as servants, in the case of farm families, or as apprentices, in the case of artisan families. Postwar middle-class Bavarian children do not generally do household chores because of the demands of schoolwork. Rather than relying on corporal punishment, modern Bavarian mothers often try to distract small and unruly children. Children are expected to be quiet and tidy when in their own homes; by the age of 13, most free time is spent with peer groups. Bavaria retains a conservative approach to education, with a tripartite system of elementary school, middle school, and "Gymnasium" (college-preparatory high school). School attendance is 100 percent and most children attend elementary school until age 16, then transfer to trade school and begin apprenticeship. Less than 10 percent (162,708) attend one of Bavaria's eleven universities.

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