Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Multiple Family Households East of the Hajnal Line: Evidence from Albania and Serbia

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Multiple Family Households East of the Hajnal Line: Evidence from Albania and Serbia

Article excerpt


Overall, the "Hajnal line remains a good on-the-ground predictor for the Balkan peninsula, where strong tendencies toward household complexity and low marriage ages continued to exist well into the twentieth century. But as Maria Todorova and others have noted, these tendencies cannot be attributed to the entire Balkan region, especially if that region includes Romania and Bulgaria" (Plakans & Wetherell, 2005: 112). It is quite a long time since John Hajnal published his articles about a "European Marriage Pattern" (Hajnal, 1965) and two different household formation systems in Europe (Hajnal, 1982). There has been launched a series of severe criticisms to his concepts and therefore this article intends to shed new light on the household composition in two countries in Southeastern Europe: Albania and Serbia. The reasons for choosing these two countries are that Serbia is the country with the lowest percentages of unmarried people in Hajnal's article on marriage patterns (Hajnal, 1965 : 1 03), and has also the lowest percentages of unmarried women and the lowest age at marriage for women in Sklar's article on marriage behaviour in the demographic transition (Sklar, 1974: 245), while Albania is the last country in Southeastern Europe which entered the Demographic Transition. It is not the intention to discuss the applicability of the Hajnal line for the whole of Eastern Europe or East-Central Europe (Szohysek, 2008).

The research about household structures in the eastern half of Europe is still mostly an annex to the overall research of household structures in Europe. The reasons for this situation are manifold: missing sources, less interest from Western scholars, and less orientation of scholars from the region towards international research. Overall pictures of the region were mostly based on ethnographic studies or scattered quantitative studies of a few villages or cities. Another aspect is the spatial variation, which has not been investigated intensely: indepth studies concentrated on small areas, while the general view rests on these scattered studies, ethnographic evidence and mere assumptions.

At first the theoretical framework for household formation patterns in Southeastern Europe including some dissenting views is discussed. Then the data for this article is presented and the measures used are explained. The spatial distribution of multiple family households in both countries is analysed afterwards and conclusions concerning these two countries and the Hajnal-line are drawn.


Vuk St. Karadzic is still important for the research about household and family in Southeastern Europe because he coined the temi "zadruga." This term became increasingly used and the interest was directed often towards very large and complex households, because already Karadzic cited a household with 62 members, 13 couples, 1,400 sheep and goats (Karadzic, 1818: 191). Publications about single large joint family households helped to create and perpetuate therefore a certain image of this kind of household. The term was connected with different connotations, including the notion of a national custom or as being essentially Slavic (Todorova, 1990: 46). Therefore the term "zadruga" should be avoided in scholarly publications (Capo Zmegac, 1996: 379;Kaser, 1995: 37; Todorova, 1990: 64).

A multiple family household in Southeastern Europe can be defined as a residential kin unit composed of at least two nuclear family units, often including other relatives as well, who work and live together and jointly control and utilize the resources of the household. Usually its members are related by common descent, mainly in the male line. It can be considered being a patrilocal unit existing within a society which places stress on patrilineal descent and where the formal authority patterns are patriarchal (Halpern & Kerewsky-Halpern, 1972: 17). This kind of household is part of a descent group, shares its characteristics and is its basis. …

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