Flemish - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage unites an adult male and female into an economic unit ideally distinct from the natal families of each. Marriages are arranged by the bride and groom themselves, but with family influence. The economic aspects of marriage are not often explicitly expressed (people prefer to say they marry because they love one another or they wish to raise children together), but marriage is clearly an economic partnership between spouses and between their natal Families. Notably, zelfstandige (self-employed) couples and farmers work together in income-producing enterprises. Compatibility in work, the willingness to divide labor, and a shared work ethic are important reasons to marry a particular spouse when anticipating this work in adulthood. Men and women typically marry for the first time in their teens or early twenties, and they begin childbearing soon thereafter. Families of two to four children are the norm. Second and subsequent marriages are common following the death of, or separation from, one's first spouse. Legal divorce is increasingly Common, but it is considered a misfortune particularly for Children and wives who depend economically on husbands. Coworking couples will find it expedient not to divorce when marital difficulties arise because divorce can have a detrimental effect on business. In such cases, couples will remain married but live apart, creating social-sexual alliances with others. There are few institutions that cater to the single adult. Subtle social sanctions are brought to bear on adults who remain single past the middle thirties without a legitimate reason, such as entry into the priesthood. Extramarital alliances, both purely sexual as well as those that result in children, are common for both men and women, but they are not often maintained openly. Wealthy Flemish men and women may maintain semipermanent liaisons for years. A secondary common-law spouse is not uncommon.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family, composed of husband, wife, and their children, is the ideal family form. Coresident extended families are not common. Unmarried adults will commonly live with aged parents until marriage. Married couples establish new households when they wed, or shortly thereafter. Often in "business families," whose members work in the same trade, several nuclear families of kin will live in adjacent housing, next to or above the workspace. Old people who can no longer care for themselves are often cared for in old-age homes run by religious Orders, sociopolitical unions, or insurance organizations. There are similar institutions for the mentally and physically disabled and the mentally ill. In recent years, young unmarried adults have begun to live apart from parents in shared housing. Alternative households and unmarried cohabitation are still uncommon.

Inheritance. Inheritance is strictly partible and is governed by state laws. A property owner's estate is to be divided equally between legitimate heirs. If a spouse survives, he or she is entitled to use rights to the home the couple previously shared. Business property is handled as the personal property of the owner and willed separately in ways that often result in the disinheritance of individuals who invest years of labor in the business.

Socialization. Children are allowed carefree childhoods, without major work responsibilities. Creative, imaginative play is encouraged. Children are much loved and spoiled. Older relatives and neighbors and older children are charged with care of little ones, teaching them a rich children's Culture of play songs and rhymes as well as good behavior, which is defined as showing respect for elders, keeping quiet, following instructions well, and being resourceful. Willful and stubborn behavior on the part of children is tolerated and even admired as the first sign of a strong and independent character. Few children work, but the children of business owners often work part-time as "helpers" at as early as 8 years old. This experience is viewed as good preparation for following in a family trade. Flemish children are formally educated in schools, with the majority enrolled in private Catholic schools. After elementary grades, children are then either expressly guided to or given a choice between a trade-oriented education, a liberal education, professional training, or business training. An apprenticeship system survives in the halftime work-study programs of some vocational schools, but students still reside at their parents' home.

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