German Swiss - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriages are monogamous. Prohibitions on first-cousin marriage exist in Catholic cantons of German Switzerland. Neolocal residence is favored today, but newly married couples often reside with either the man's or woman's family. This practice reflects less on the role of kin ties than on the availability of housing or land. Under Swiss law, married women have some of their premarital privileges proscribed or limited. A married woman needs her husband's permission to seek employment, to run for political office, or to open a bank account. Marriage ages have fallen to younger levels in rural and urban settings. Marriage in the mid-twenties for both sexes is common. In rural areas, there is a high level of endogamy to, for example, a specific valley. This practice is less prevalent today with out-migration to cities becoming more common. German Swiss tend to be endogamous to their language group as a whole. In 1960, a total of 51,800 German-French households were recorded. Divorce is more common in non-Catholic areas.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the minimal family unit. In Catholic cantons, it can number between six and seven persons with fewer members in the urban, non-Catholic cantons. Family size has dropped since 1970 with the falling birthrate, and three or more children are increasingly rare. Men no longer exert the same control over their children as in pre-industrial days, although they are recognized as the family head.

Inheritance. Inheritance is both partible (equal divisions among children) and impartible. In rural areas, Swiss law requires agricultural operations to be inherited intact, if one of the male heirs who is capable of managing it makes the request. If an heir dies childless, the estate is divided among Siblings and does not go to the surviving spouse. Landholdings within rural valleys do promote a certain level of endogamy as the joint inheritance of the partners provides for a certain security. Again, this is less important with the decreased importance of agriculture for subsistence.

Socialization. Infants are reared by both parents and any relatives who are household members. Children live at home during schooling, until trade school or college age. The interest in children is strong at the commune level. Each canton is responsible for its educational program and, until recently, has seen considerable diversity in educational philosophy. For instance, the obligatory schooling is nine years, seven primary and two secondary. The Federal Maturity Certificate awarded after completion of upper-level secondary schooling at age 19 or 20 is recognized as qualification for entry into other sectors of higher education. Schooling acts as a primary agent in socialization and reflects the accepted standards of the community and nation as a whole. All Swiss males Between the ages of 20 and 50—German or otherwise—are required to serve in the military. The importance of the military service in Swiss socialization is more appreciated today after its integrative role during two world wars, which produced great tensions between German Swiss and non-German Swiss. Many scholars credit the military with modeling the ethos of modern Switzerland. Still, socialization begins with family and continues through community (schooling, Religion, service). Religion's socializing role is more important in Catholic areas of German Switzerland.

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