Northern Irish - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is Christian and monogamous. The proportion of marriages solemnized in a religious ceremony (86 percent) far exceeds the national average (59 percent in Scotland; 58 percent in Wales; 52 percent in England). The proportion of the population remarrying (8.7 percent for men and 8.2 percent for women) is the lowest in the U.K. The Illegitimacy rate (127 per 1,000) was the lowest in the U.K. in 1986 but is increasing. "Mixed" marriages between Catholics and Protestants are relatively rare, being treated as political actions and viewed with antagonism by both sides. They are more common among the upper and middle classes than among the working class, and in the poorer western rural counties than in urban working-class enclaves. Where Kinship networks do cut across the divide, they appear actively to encourage mixed marriages, as on Rathlin Island. A recent increase in integrated schooling may encourage mixed marriages.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family is the ideal throughout Northern Irish society. Single-parent families are thought to be increasing, particularly in cities, but close kinship ties with siblings and older relatives make them less of a social problem than is the case elsewhere. Most households (61.5 percent) are made up of a husband and wife and their children. Historically, the three-generational stem household was very evident and a modern adaptation existed whereby, in place of the traditional Irish "west room," a bungalow was built nearby for the grandparental generation. Contemporary security measures have increased the familial role of grandparents in house minding, child care, etc. Sibling households are still quite common in the farming community, reflecting the high rate of celibacy and the late age of marriage. Many Households contain elderly parents and lodgers (often farm laborers), a reflection of both traditional stem-family residential structure and the modern declining economy and housing shortage. In 1947, the largest households were found among agricultural laborers (4.77), followed by farmers (4.22), factory workers (4.08), shopkeepers (3.35), pensioners (2.68) and artisans (2.60). Overall average household size was 3.96 persons.

Inheritance. Gender is the main determinant of Inheritance, but particular modes vary with class. Wealthier farming families practice "tail male" (ultimogeniture). Historically, neighboring farms were acquired for other sons, but emigration and movement into the professions have lessened the strains of inheritance. Provision of some kind is usually made for daughters.

Socialization. Socialization occurs in the home, at school, in Sunday schools, and in youth organizations, many of which are attached to churches or sociopolitical organizations. Formal education is largely in the hands of religious authorities, although a small number of schools, mainly in rural areas, are nondenominational. The recent establishment of "integrated" schooling is opposed by Catholic church leaders and parents. There are two universities: the Queens University in Belfast and the New University of Ulster in Coleraine. In 1986, 40 percent of the work force had no educational qualifications beyond secondary-school level, a higher proportion than elsewhere in the U.K.

User Contributions:

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