French Canadians - Kinship, Marriage and Family



Kinship. French Canadians reckon descent bilaterally. Kinship terminology distinguishes the paternal from the maternal line by adding the term paternel and maternel to terms like uncle, aunt, or cousin. First, second, and third cousins are recognized. Genealogical knowledge is an important Social asset in which women excel. In rural areas, women can easily state every kinship tie they have with hundreds of Persons for five or six generations. Residence was traditionally patrilocal for the son inheriting the paternal farm but Neolocal for other sons and daughters. Now it is neolocal for all.

Marriage. Traditionally, men and women had to either marry or remain celibate, taking care of their elderly parents or entering religious communities. Marriage was religious and divorce prohibited by the church. Sexuality was severely repressed and only allowed as a means to produce children. Married couples felt obligated to have a great number of Children to ensure the survival of the French Canadian nation. A radical change has taken place since 1960, with fewer men and women entering religious communities and civil Marriage, birth control, and divorce now the norm. The typical family now has only two children, and 50 percent of new Marriages end in divorce. Sexuality has been liberalized, and a woman's economic status in marriage has been recognized by civil law in marriage contracts and in divorce settlements.

Domestic Unit. Famille-souche, consisting of a married couple, their numerous children, grandparents, and unmarried brothers or sisters on the paternal farm, was the traditional pattern. For sons and daughters leaving the famillesouche, the nuclear family was the rule. The nuclear family with five persons or less is now prevalent, with a growing proportion of single-parent families as a consequence of the large number of divorces. Agricultural families have followed the urban pattern.

Inheritance. Patrilineal land transmission was the rule, with only one son (usually one of the younger ones) inheriting the paternal farm, the other sons having been given land earlier by their father. Women were not allowed to inherit land, though they now can. For inheritance of other goods, English practices have been followed since the nineteenth century.

Socialization. Traditionally, children in rural areas received only a minimal formal education for three to six years. They worked on the farm from the age of twelve to the time of their marriage. Emphasis was placed on capacity to work hard and on respect for adults and church authority. Only a minority had an opportunity to attend the colleges and universities controlled by the clergy. Since 1960, religious educational Institutions have been nationalized, and universal access to Formal education has been promoted. Familial education is more liberal and permissive since families are now smaller. With the changing roles of men and women, a greater emphasis has been put on the socialization of boys and girls free of sexual stereotypes in families and at school.


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