Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism

By Richard Frucht | Go to book overview

F
Family

Numerous factors have affected the family in Eastern Europe over the centuries: loss of national independence, underdeveloped economies, high rates of rural population, biased gender ideology, uneven urbanization and industrialization, and a socialist system introduced in 1945. Family life patterns developed through links among family functions, gender-segregated employment, legislation, and state intervention. During periods of political unrest or economic instability (male emigration, migrant workers), women replaced men in nondomestic roles. Women occupied strong positions in the family. The family had the characteristics of a modified extended unit, where members maintain geographic mobility while exchanging services (noticeable between rural and urban relatives, and between older relatives and working mothers).

The traditional family structure—with both parents present and gender-specific division of roles—persisted. Dual-career couples and mothers employed full-time became a norm after 1945. Premarital pregnancy more often led to marriage or abortion than to the condition of single mother. A shortage of staples and family-oriented services made relatives an indispensable source of assistance (childcare, housekeeping, and care of the ailing and the elderly). Consequently, the economic/productive family function was not entirely eliminated. Family ties, shared values, an acceptance of parents' authority, mutual interdependence (gender and age), and housing shortages contributed to family unity and relatively low divorce rates (in 1988: Bulgaria, 1.4 per 1,000 population; Czechoslovakia, 2.5; Hungary, 2.4; Poland, 1.3; Romania, 1.4; Yugoslavia, 1.0). Low standards of living and shortages (and erratic supplies) of consumer goods limited family expenditures mostly to essentials and turned housekeeping into time-consuming chores. Socialist legislation protected family, mother, and child. Access to “education for all” resulted in increased educational levels. However, mothers maintained a strong influence on children's educational and occupational choices. The socialist efforts to reduce the family's socializing function by including ideological programs in school curricula therefore failed.

To bring married mothers into the workplace, a family benefits policy, job security for working mothers, and (almost) free-of-charge abortion on demand was implemented. A steady improvement in health and life expectancy was recorded. The number of children per family decreased, while the chances of the children's survival improved. But urban-rural residence and parents' education remained factors modifying family size and children's education; families thus continued to be larger in rural areas. Owing to the rapid migration of young people to the cities, an intensified demand for industrial labor force, and female employment, birth rates fell. During the 1960s, the demographic policy resulted in zero population, including negative natural increase (Czechoslovakia and Hungary). To compensate for the low birth rates, pronatal measures and protection of women's reproductive functions were implemented, and a system of privileges for families was introduced. Romania was a stark exception. Reproductive decisions were not accorded privacy by the state, abortion became illegal, and

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Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe: From the Congress of Vienna to the Fall of Communism
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Encyclopedia of Eastern Europe xv
  • A - Abakanowicz, Magdalena (1930–) 1
  • B - Babits, Mihaly (1883–1941) 45
  • C - Cankar, Ivan (1876–1918) 117
  • D - Dalmatia 211
  • E - East Prussia 235
  • F - Family 265
  • G - Gafencu, Grigore (1892–1957) 283
  • H - Habsburg Empire 317
  • I - Iancu, Avram (1824–72) 375
  • J - Jagiellonian University 395
  • K - Kádár, János (1912–89) 411
  • L - Labor 441
  • M - Macedonia (Geography) 469
  • N - Načertanije 519
  • O - Obradović, Dositej (Dimitrije) (C. 1739–1811) 543
  • P - Paderewski, Ignacy Jan (1860–1941) 555
  • R - Račić, Josip (1885–1908) 647
  • S - Sabin, Albert Bruce (1906–93) 707
  • T - Taaffe, Count Eduard (1833–95) 785
  • U - Udržal, František (1868–1938) 819
  • V - Varna 825
  • W - Wajda, Andrzej (1926–) 837
  • X - Xenopol, Alexandra D. (1847–1920) 863
  • Y - Yalta Conference 865
  • Z - Zadruga 899
  • Index 909
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