Tiroleans - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kinship terminology specifies lineal relations, while merging into collective terms all those individuals who stand in collateral relationship to the household head. There are special terms for first and second cousins.

Only through marriage does an individual acquire full recognition as an adult in the community. Marriages in the Tirol tend to be village-endogamous—indeed, most Marriages occur between individuals of the same neighborhood within the village. It is within the neighborhood—a group of four to six of the local farm properties—that the closest relations of interhousehold cooperation and friendship arise, and intermarriage between such households serves to strengthen these bonds. Individuals who did not inherit land have great difficulty in marrying, for they are wholly dependent on their inheriting sibling for their support. A man generally did not marry until he was financially able to support a wife. Long courtships were the rule, and they depended on the approval of the bride by the siblings of the marrying male. A dowry is required and generally consists of furnishings for the marital household. It is often the bride-to-be herself, rather than her family, who earns the money to be invested in the dowry. The wedding is an event of villagewide import, celebrated in the church. Upon marriage, the wife usually comes to live in the farm household of her husband; it is far less common for a man to go to live on the bride's family estate. Information on divorce is unavailable.

With marriage, a new domestic unit is established, with the husband serving also as head of household—except on the rare occasion when a noninheriting sibling marries. Generally speaking, however, dependent male siblings who remain on the family farm remain unmarried, so this circumstance does not arise with any great frequency. The household consists of the heir to the farm, his wife, their unmarried children, and any siblings of the heir that the farmstead can employ and who choose to stay on. The Tirolean tradition of impartibility according to the principle of primogeniture serves to keep the major portion of an estate's land undivided, but it is not absolutely applied. Smaller parcels of land can be, and are, divided among a number of heirs. At times, a firstborn son is unwilling to wait until his father relinquishes control of the family estate and so leaves the farmstead. In addition, even those who are excluded from inheriting ownership of the property may be bequeathed rights to a living from the land (i.e., rights to ownership of a room within the house and usufruct rights of a portion of the land itself).

The early socialization of the Tirolean child is the responsibility of the mother. The family is adult-centered rather than child-centered, and children are taught early on to conduct themselves politely, even formally, in the presence of adults. Discipline is not harsh, but it relies principally on sending the misbehaving child from the room. Play is unstructured, and in early childhood, boys and girls may play Together. By the age of 7 or 8, however, children are expected to begin to assume some of the responsibilities of adults, taking on chores appropriate to their sex. Herding is a boy's pursuit, housework is a girl's, and both are expected to help in the fields, especially during harvest times. Children begin school at about the age of 6, and are required to attend until they reach the age of 14. Most children do not go on beyond this point, but opportunities do exist for high-school education and beyond.


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