Kinship. Polish kinship is reckoned bilaterally. Most kin terms have both formal and informal forms. The informal forms are becoming more commonly used, which is one indication of a shift in the power structure of the family. Whereas the familiar term babcia for "grandmother" has been historically common, there has been a shift in the term used to address the father, from the formal ojciec to the informal ojca.
There is reciprocity in affinal kin terms, which can also be extended to more distant affines. The terms for mother's brother ( wujek ) and for father's sister ( ciotka ) can also be used to refer to any aunt or uncle. Terms like bratniec (brother's son) can also be extended to refer to the brother's son's child.
With the exception of cousins, kinship terminology distinguishes kin related through women from those related through men in the case of lateral relatives (i.e., mother's brother), but not in the case of strictly lineal relatives (i.e., grandparents). The terms for various lateral (but not lineal) affines also distinguish between those related by the marriage of a woman and those related by the marriage of a man.
Marriage. Soviet Poles do not form an endogamous marriage community. There is evidence, however, that marriage with other Poles is preferred to marriage with members of other ethnic groups, particularly Russians. There is a widespread belief that marriages to Russians are certain to end in divorce. If children marry members of another ethnic group, it is preferred that they marry other Catholics, for example Germans or Lithuanians.
Domestic Unit. Polish households often consist of a three-generation family: parents, children, and grandparents. The alternative household structure is that of a nuclear family. Both types were found throughout history among Poles, although the three-generation family was the more common until the twentieth century. In the past thirty years three-generation family households have become more common, as housing is in short supply. The power structure of the modern family differs from the traditional patriarchal family, however. Women generally work outside the household. Relations among family members are more informal. The emotional functions of the family have been intensified. Furthermore, the authority of the family is no longer vested in the grandparental generation, although grandparents may make significant contributions to the running of the household. Grandmothers often play an important role in the socialization of children, caring for them while the parents work. Statistics suggest that the older generations are more likely to use Polish as their major or exclusive means of communication; grandparents, therefore, may help to preserve the status of Polish as a primary language.
Socialization. Other significant sources of socialization are the church and the school. The Catholic church is an institution that teaches national as well as religious identity. (Religious instruction also occurs at home, especially in times of increased repression.) The state-run schools, in which Russian was spoken, were sources for the assimilation of Polish children into Soviet society. Of even greater concern to the Polish community, these schools were run on atheistic principles. Polish children attended these schools along with children of other ethnic groups. Until recently, the use of Polish was rigorously suppressed, and Polish children suffered discrimination in discipline.