Icelanders - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The modern kinship terminology is made up of two systems. One is Ego-centered with terms that indicate specific individuals. The second is a set of collective terms that indicate groups of kin. Each of these two systems is divided into two more or less classificatory or descriptive subsystems. Descriptive terms designate individuals by generation, sex, and laterality. Merging terms refer to individuals with others of other positions of the same category. These systems have evolved from similarly complex medieval systems.

Marriage. Documents of the literary-historic tradition record instances of men having multiple mates if not legal wives. Marriage has never been considered as important in Iceland as in some other societies. Since the early nineteenth century when national statistics began to be recorded, from 13 to 36 percent (in 1977) of births have been illegitimate. Illegitimacy has never been a stigma or hindrance. Of the Nordic countries, Iceland has the youngest age at marriage (24.9 years for males, 22.7 years for females). Divorce has always been easy. The rate of divorce in 1977 was 9.12 per thousand married women. Because of the high rate of cohabitation, this figure does not necessarily have the same social meaning as it might in a society with a higher rate of marriage.

Domestic Unit. In 1703 the average household size was 5.6 persons and remained between 6 and 7 until 1901 when it was 6.2. In 1950 it was 3.8 and in 1960 3.9.

Inheritance. There is no kindred-based land inheritance in Iceland. Personal decisions outweigh structural obligations. The historical-literary tradition records cases of contested inheritance, usually resolved by force in medieval times.

Socialization. Modern Icelanders are very aware of issues of child rearing, child welfare, and education, and these issues sometimes become political. Public-health nurses make periodic house checks on newborns to ensure that they are staying on their growth curves and to help mothers with any problems they may encounter. Day care for preschool children is widely available in and near Reykjavik. In less metropolitan areas parents rely more on kin and friends for child care. Some rural and urban households have au pair girls to help with young children.

Also read article about Icelanders from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: