Hungarians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. In traditional Hungarian society an individual was identified principally by his or her place in a kinship Organization. In Hungarian address and reference terms, one does not distinguish between paternal and maternal relatives (or between parallel and cross cousins). Rather, kin from both the father's and mother's side are included in a common class. Kinship is bilaterally reckoned. Traditionally, however, more emphasis was placed on the paternal kin than on the maternal because of the "male-centric" worldview in Hungarian rural society and the economically more beneficial Inheritance system to males along the patriline. There is no uniform reckoning or terminology of kinship. Rather, an urban and a rural system coexist in Hungary. The urban system reflects nuclear family organization, and the rural system and its many regional variants depict the traditional extended family organization. Generally, Hungarian kinship terminology is descriptive and sharply distinguishes between affinal kin, consanguineous kin, and fictive kin. In Hungarian, like in other Finno-Ugric languages, there is a systematic differentiation between elder and younger brothers ( báty, öcs ), and Between elder and younger sisters ( növér, hug ). The fictive kinship of godparenthood ( keresztkomaság ) is a highly significant, lifelong alliance.

Marriage. Even though only the birth of a child transforms a couple into a family, marriage is the emblem of maturity and conveys a status of adulthood, particularly in rural communities. Weddings are very elaborate, opulent affairs. Being unmarried after the age of 20-22 for women and 25-27 for men is negatively sanctioned. Traditional patterns of wife beating continue. Divorces are increasingly common, particularly in urban areas. According to 1987 data, there were 2.8 divorces per 1,000 inhabitants in the country.

Domestic Unit. Depending upon socioeconomic circumstances, both the nuclear family and various forms of the joint or extended family organization were present even within the same rural settlement in traditional times. Extended families were maintained the longest among some Hungarian subethnic groups, for example among the Palóc, Matyó, and Seklers. While there are still a number of multi-generational families who live under the same roof and share "the same bread" today the most frequent form is the independently residing nuclear family.

Inheritance. According to an 1840 law, property was to be divided equally among all surviving children regardless of gender. Most often, however, land was either divided equally among sons or the entire land property and the family dwelling were given to the eldest or most capable son. Other sons were given their share in money. Daughters, who of course married out of the paternal household, either gave up their rights to inherit real property or were paid a small sum. Often it was the responsibility of mothers to provide their daughters with proper dowries.

Socialization. In the past, with a pattern of patrilocal Postmarital residence, the mother, older siblings, and the female kin in the paternal household were responsible for the upbringing of children. Independence at an early age, respect for elders, and conformity to local and familial values were stressed. Currently, with the increasingly frequent pattern of neolocal postmarital residence, most rural children are raised by their mothers, maternal natal kin, and the village nursery and elementary schools. Even though today there is strong orientation toward child-centeredness, corporal punishment is still frequent.

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