Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Behind and beyond Hajnal's Line: Families and Family Life in Slovenia

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Behind and beyond Hajnal's Line: Families and Family Life in Slovenia

Article excerpt


The paper presents and discusses the main characteristics of family life in Slovenia throughout different historical periods, from the socialist past, the transitional period and today's post-transitional era. As a former socialist country, Slovenia falls behind the socalled Hajnal line but, due to historical, cultural, political and geographic factors, it hardly fits in with Hajnal's interpretation of the typical Eastern European family pattern. After the mid- 1 9th century, the period for when the first data on nuptiality in Slovenia are available, the mean ages of both spouses at marriage were relatively high and marriage was never a universal phenomenon. The most frequent age at marriage for brides was in the group 24-30 years (34%), followed by 20-24 years (31%) and 30-40 years (17.6%). Brides younger than 20 years represented just 11%. Grooms were not significantly older: the most frequent age group at marriage was between 24-30 years (43.6%), followed by the age group 30-40 (30.3%), while grooms older than 40 years and younger than 20 years each represented only 10% at the end of the 19th and the first decades of the 20* century (Znidarsic, 2000, 67-68). According to historians, late and non-universal marriage restricted fertility on a massive scale since the period during which women could give birth was then fairly limited (Verginella, 1990, Cernie, 1988). In more recent times, from the mid-20* century on, both Western and Eastern European countries (although at different paces) have been facing significant changes in demographic and family trends. Trends involving the pluralisation of family forms and lifestyles in recent decades challenge the idea of monolithic patterns of family life-cither Western or Eastern European-and tend to eliminate the differences between Western and Eastern European countries as well as significant differences among them. 2

The first section of the article presents and explains the main features of the changing sociopolitical regime and its impact on family life, and is followed by an analysis of family-state relations over the last six decades. In the third section we analyse the primary demographic and family trends. The fourth section examines certain characteristics of family life in Slovenia, revealing similarities and differences in comparison with Western and Eastern European countries. The final section discusses the main features of family life in Slovenia and the relevance of Hajnal's theory in the context of current European family trends.


Prior to 1 99 1 Slovenia was part of the Yugoslav state which had been constituted after World War II as a socialist federal country. Down through the centuries, the territory of Yugoslavia had been a crossroads between East and West, a point of direct confrontations between Christian and Islamic cultures, a breeding ground of wars, uprisings and liberation movements. Although in some parts of the country formerly belonging to the AustroHungarian Empire the process of European industrialization was already underway and the feudal system had largely been superseded, in the southern regions that had been under Ottoman rule for almost 500 years feudalism lingered on up until World War Il-a fact which was both used and misused to explain the huge regional differences in Yugoslavia's development after World War II.

The post-war Yugoslav political system was initially a form of centralised administrative socialism. Until the end of the 1 940s when Tito's Communist Party decided to break off from Stalin's regime, the system had been closely shaped by the experiences of the Soviet system. What followed was a kind of autonomous Yugoslav socialist self-management which positioned the country somewhere in between East and West in European geopolitical terms and lasted until Yugoslavia's dissolution in the early 1990s.

During the socialist period, women's employment3 was crucial to economic development and was encouraged by means of education state-guaranteed parental leave and benefits, child care facilities and laws about marriage and the family that framed women as equal individuals. …

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