Slovaks - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Slovaks practice monogamy, with divorce and remarriage becoming a frequent occurrence in the last quarter of the twentieth century. In the past, there was a high degree of village endogamy or, at least, local endogamy (marriage within a group of villages representing a particular regional enclave). Religious endogamy is still prevalent, but is growing less important. In the past, everyone married and staying single was not possible, save for those unable to secure a spouse because of disability. Dowry was important, with cash being the preferred item. A daughter ordinarily could not marry until her female relatives had completed a set of featherbeds for her, her prospective husband, and their first offspring. There was a strong emphasis on virilocal residence. On the day of the wedding, the groom and his entourage would arrive at the bride's home and, after her attendants had sent several imposters outside to "trick" him, they would finally send the bride out. She would then bid a ritual farewell to her parents and be carried off with her possessions in a wagon to the groom's home. At some point following the ceremony, her wedding headdress would be removed and the distinctive, folded cap of a married woman would be placed on her head, accompanied by the singing of another ritual song. Once she was in her husband's home, her mother-in-law would call her nevesta (bride) for several months, and she would be assigned many of the heavy household chores. Today postmarital Residence is ambilocal and even neolocal when financial circumstances permit or when employment cannot be secured near relatives.

Domestic Unit. Increasingly, the domestic unit is the Nuclear family. However, the extended family, three generations deep, was once the norm and can still be found in villages and hamlets. Some homes have an additional room or two at the end of a house to provide a separate kitchen or bedroom for a son's wife and children.

Inheritance. Inheritance is partible. In the past, if a Peasant family had some land, the brother or brothers might attempt to buy out the sister's share and thereby provide her with some dowry while keeping enough land to farm. Partible inheritance reduced landholdings in some areas to small ribbons of land that were ultimately too small to support a Family. Today, grown children of deceased parents feud over shares in houses. The married offspring who occupies the Parents' home is forced either to sell it and divide the proceeds or to come up with the cash to pay off the claims of siblings.

Socialization. Babies remained under the care of their mothers, who would take them into the fields. Young children were placed in the care of their grandmothers, most Commonly their father's mother. When they reached about the age of 7, children would be assigned chores usually specific to their gender; both boys and girls would be sent off with geese, cows, or sheep to tend. The Communist government established preschools throughout Slovakia by the 1970s, thus changing the old pattern of socialization. Liberal maternal leaves permitted new mothers to stay home with pay. These factors have combined to lessen the degree of cultural continuity across the generations. Today formal education is compulsory, but in the past it was common for Slovak peasant children to leave school in the early grades with many dropping out after the third grade to go to work.

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