Ideal vs Actual domestic arrangements

Domestic Organization
Ideal Forms and Actual Arrangements

The second issue regards the cultural values that structure domestic relationships and the actualization of idealized forms in on-the-ground arrangements. The unit of description and analysis must be understood in terms of the main principles of household formation and composition. The domestic unit is not a mere physical assemblage but the result of rules that create it. In this regard we will investigate a range of postmarital residence rules that specify where a couple will live after marriage and often lead to complex extended family patterns. For example, households in Turkish villages are formed according to a strict patrilocal rule that a son must live in his natal household until his father dies. This stipulation means that, when a man marries, his wife will normally move in with his family and raise her children under her mother-in-law’s roof along with her sisters-in-law. Although residence rules are uniformly enforced according to cultural norms, they are not always neatly observable in actual cases. One survey of Turkish village domestic organization indicated that over 70% of all households included only nuclear family members. This curious condition was not the result of a deviation from patrilocality. It was just an accident product of the large death rate of men during World War I. Since their fathers had uniformly died at an early age, a generation of men began their domestic careers as heads of independent households. In this particular case, the nuclear family arrangement occurs within a dominant patrilocal system as an early stage in the domestic cycle.

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Created: October 2003