Czechs - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. For the Czechs, the effective kin group is limited to the closest relatives. Most people consider collateral relatives beyond uncles, aunts, and first cousins to be rather distant and are likely to see them only at weddings or funerals. Descent is bilateral, with family names patronymic. Kinship terminology is of the Eskimo type, emphasizing both lineal descent and generation membership.

Marriage. For much of this century the selection of a spouse and the decision to marry has rested with the young couple. Before World War II, education and economic standing of the prospective bride and groom were of considerable importance. Men did not usually marry until they completed their education and were launched in their careers, typically in their late twenties or early thirties; women at marriage were for the most part in their early or mid-twenties. In 1986, the average age of individuals marrying for the first time was much lower: 35.7 percent of women were below 20 years of age, 51.9 percent of women and 58.4 percent of men between 20 and 24, and 23.8 percent of men between 25 and 29. Wedding celebrations rarely exceed one day. The most desired postmarital residence is neolocal; however, housing shortages in big cities since World War II have made that goal difficult to attain. Divorce, relatively rare at the beginning of the century, is now quite common: there were 2.2 divorces per 100 marriages in 1919, but 37 per 100 in 1987. The two-child family is the ideal, although childless families among career-oriented spouses are not uncommon. The number of legally approved abortions per 100 births amounted to 62.4 in 1986.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family has long been the typical domestic group, especially in the cities.

Inheritance. Inheritances in former times helped perpetuate differences between the rich and poor. Under socialism, the importance of inheritance diminished. Nevertheless, most parents make every effort to help their children become comfortable.

Socialization. Until World War II, middle-class women as a rule did not hold a job but stayed home to manage the household and take care of children. At present, with women accounting for 46.3 percent (1987) of those employed in the national economy, small children not cared for by mothers on generous maternity leave are enrolled in nurseries or are in the care of relatives, especially grandmothers. Mothers tend to exercise more authority over children than do fathers. Parents tend more to criticize than to praise their children. Czechs place a high value on education and on academic titles. In terms of values, children are brought up to be egalitarian, individualistic, personally orderly, pragmatic, rational, hardworking (for one's own benefit), peaceful, present-oriented, and materialistic.

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