This chapter presents a cross-cultural perspective on the family within a social psychological framework and with a comparative theoretical orientation: it examines how ongoing family changes and social transformations influence each other. It also examines the corresponding patterns of change in the self and in human relations. The theoretical perspective refers to a model of family change that I have developed over the last decade. The model is based on my own research and other research evidence from diverse societies. The social transformation of concern here is basically urbanization, which entails significant lifestyle changes. Thus, the focus of attention is the so-called “majority world, ” i.e., the developing countries with strong family and kinship networks, Turkish society being an example of such a family collectivistic culture. However, as the model is also comparative it involves family patterns from Western industrial societies, not least from the Swedish family. The implications of the model for Turkish and Swedish societies will be considered.
Some current examples from Turkish and Swedish demographic and societal data may help to draw attention to certain social psychological aspects of family dynamics that the model may help to explain. For example, there are striking differences between Swedish and Turkish rates of marriage, divorce, solo living (single-person households), suicide, and birth rates. Some of these are tenfold differences. How can those contrasts be explained? Do they result mainly from macrolevel economic and demographic variables, such as differences in the standard of living and education levels, or are there also other influences that relate to family cultures and go above and beyond such structural macro-variables? The theoretical explanations proposed here may throw further light on these issues.
Social science perspectives are valuable in situating family processes in their socioeconomic and historical contexts. However, the family can also be studied as the central component of individual (self)-family-society linkages, which require psychological analysis as well. In understanding how societal values link with childrearing patterns and human developmental outcomes, including the development of the self, family is the crucial mediator. Nevertheless, the complexity of the family as an intergenerational system moving through time has been a deterrent to its psychological analysis (McGoldrick and Carter 1982). Consequently, there has not been much progress in psychological and social psychological theory on the family except in the more applied clinical approaches, such as family systems theory. Yet, it is exactly this theoretical gap at the level of the self-family-society interface that needs to be filled in order to achieve a better understanding of the family and of some of the contrasts between Turkish and Swedish societies.