Croats - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. Descent is traced patrilineally and the social emphasis on father's lineage is reflected in more elaborated terminology for father's relatives. Kin groups were based traditionally on patrilocal residence and patrimony, which was jointly owned and managed by a father and his married sons ( zadruga ). Matrilineal kin was less important in social practice and lived at a distance. Further patrilineal kin often inhabited the same hamlet or nearby villages. The zadruga system disappeared by the early twentieth century, and Because of migrations and intensive urbanization, patrilineal kin groups are presently more dispersed, with their interaction mostly limited to yearly or life-cycle rituals, while in everyday practice one's mother's and father's relatives have equally important roles. Post-World War II family law gave a married woman the opportunity to keep her maiden name or hyphenate it with her husband's surname. This practice indicates a shift toward bilaterality. Children, however, rarely receive other than their father's surname. Inheritance of parental property also has become largely bilateral.

Marriage. Marriages are monogamous. In the past, they were arranged by corporate kin groups and parents. Marriage partners were sought from neighboring hamlets and villages (regional endogamy). Residence was traditionally patrilocal. As a consequence of rural-urban migrations as well as education and employment of women, ambilocal residence has become predominant, while neolocality is the ideal for young couples. The divorce rate is constantly rising (177 per 1,000 marriages in 1988), peaking in the city of Zagreb, where every third marriage ends in divorce. Divorces are "no-fault," by agreement, with laws mainly oriented toward the protection of the rights of children.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is that group of people who sleep and eat "under one roof" and who jointly manage family ( obitelj ) resources. The structure of this group has changed from the zadruga type to three-generational stem family (parents with children and one or two grandparents), nuclear family (parents with children), and even smaller "fragmented" types of domestic unit. While the three-generational family is still common in rural areas, the average number of persons in domestic units in Croatia is hardly above three. Less than half of the domestic units have a Nuclear family structure, whereas others include single persons (16 percent), childless couples (24.6 percent), mothers with children (8.4 percent) and fathers with children (1.5 percent). The reasons of such fragmentation, besides divorce, are labor migration, a drop in the fertility rate, and a decrease in contracted marriages.

Inheritance. Traditionally, sons inherited equal shares of patrimony, while daughters married out with dowries in land, cattle, or money. Presently property is divided equally among all children, often allotted to them gradually during the Parents' life, in order to help the children establish their own households. Remaining property is divided equally upon the parents' death. However, cases of daughters who fight for their share in court against their brothers are not infrequent.

Socialization. Children are raised by parents or grandparents. Great emphasis is placed on achievement through education as it is the main means of climbing the social ladder. For this reason children are often excused from assuming early responsibilities in domestic and productive spheres. Socioeconomic opportunities are limited, and parents sacrifice their labor and money to support their children for a long time, frequently into adulthood.

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