Latvians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The kinship system and terminology are of the Eskimo type. The most common kin unit is the nuclear family, although there are also stem extended families. Kinship beyond the nuclear and small extended family is recognized, but it is not an important principle for organizing society, except that truncated kindreds may assemble for weddings and funerals.

Marriage. In Latvia, the majority (67.8 percent of men and 56 percent of women) of those 16 years of age and older are married. The ideal is a monogamous marriage for life, but many people engage in serial monogamy. In recent years, there have been 10,000 to 11,000 divorces annually. The preferred residence is neolocal, but, owing to a housing shortage, many couples live with their parents. Most families (72.5 percent) consist of members of the same ethnic group.

Domestic Unit. For Latvians in Latvia, the average family size is 3.09. In Latvia, the predominant family type (74.4 percent of all families) is a married couple either with children (55 percent of all families) or without children. One-fifth of these families have another relative, usually a parent of one of the spouses, living with them. Single-parent families are becoming common (the number has increased 20 percent in the past ten years) because of the rising rates of divorce and births to single mothers.

Inheritance. Inheritance is governed by law. Testamentary disposition and an ambilineal inheritance from parents to children, grandchildren, and other lineal descendants is recognized.

Socialization. The family stresses tenderness and a moral code of loyalty to its members, relatives, and friends. The mother is seen as nurturant and affectionate; the father is the disciplinarian. The father is conceptualized as the head of the family, whereas the mother is its heart. Peer groups (for youth) and circles of friends (for adults) stress loyalty, helpfulness, and strong emotional support among their members. The Soviet schools advocated a Communist-oriented "official message"—loyalty and obedience to the state, hard and selfless work—whereas the students stressed loyalty to schoolmates and rivalry against teachers and adults. The official and ubiquitous Soviet government propaganda affected the local population's worldview.

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