Germans - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kinship. The Germans trace descent bilaterally and employ an Eskimo kinship terminology. Many of the standard kin terms are recognizable as English cognates, though there is some variation by dialect.

Marriage and Domestic Unit. Today's marriages are Individualistic "love matches" but similarities in class, ethnicity, and religious affiliation are often considerations in these matches. The household is based on the nuclear family, which joins occasionally with members of a wider kindred in the course of the annual festive cycle. Divorce is a legally codified dissolution of marriage; Germans resort to divorce in about three out of ten cases. Since recent legislation protects the rights of unwed mothers and their offspring, many Germans are forgoing or postponing marriage: in 1987 an estimated 40 percent of West German couples under 35 were unwed.

Inheritance. Rights to private property and legal Inheritance, guaranteed by the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, are typically exercised within the nuclear family or the wider kindred. Now that East Germany is subject to West German law, the courts will be busy resolving the conflicting claims to property resulting from a half-century of expropriation under the Nazi and Socialist party regimes.

Socialization. Germany's school system differs from state to state, but in most cases students are split between vocational and university preparatory tracks. The vocational track includes nine years of school and further part-time vocational training, with a paid apprenticeship. The university preparatory track requires attendance at the humanistic Gymnasium and successful completion of the Abitur, a university entrance examination. Germany has a highly differentiated System of higher education, including sixty-two universities and technical colleges in former West Germany and fifty-four in former East Germany.


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