Greek Fam­ily

The mod­ern greek soci­ety is strug­gling to find its iden­tity. On the one hand, Europe has always seemed to be the ideal. But on the other hand, who can under­es­ti­mate the ori­en­tal way of think­ing, derived from the 400 years of Turk­ish dom­i­na­tion? In this sense, Greece is an inter­est­ing mix­ture of cul­tures and it is a good exam­ple of a coun­try try­ing to over­come its past and head towards the devel­op­ment.

In this report we will make an effort to present the fam­ily val­ues in Greece, as well as their evo­lu­tion through time. In the first place, we will dis­cuss some key points of greek his­tory and their influ­ence on the fam­ily struc­ture. Then, we will analyse the greek youth of today and its role in the fam­ily. Finally, we will make a com­par­i­son to the world fam­ily ethics.

Fam­ily is all about tra­di­tion. It is impos­si­ble to under­stand a country’s cul­ture with­out know­ing its his­tory. It’s the his­tory which make the tra­di­tions. So, we could like to under­line very briefly some his­tor­i­cal facts.

First of all, the greek fam­ily is extremely influ­enced by the Byzan­tine tra­di­tions. The Byzan­tine era, which is actu­ally the East­ern Roman Empire of the Mid­dle Ages, lasted more than a thou­sand years. So it is more than obvi­ous how this soci­ety, formed the soci­ety of today. This is even depicted in our for­mer civil code, which was inspired by the Byzan­tine law in the part of the fam­ily and suc­ces­sion law. For exam­ple, the pre­dom­i­nant role of the hus­band derives from those ancient tra­di­tions and of course the wife was in a posi­tion of inferiority.

The Byzan­tine era ended with the Turk­ish dom­i­na­tion, which lasted nearly 4 cen­turies. There, the greek peo­ple came in touch with the val­ues of the East and the islamic atti­tude, for exam­ple in the field of divorce, ille­git­i­mate chil­dren, rela­tions before the wed­ding etc… Another sig­nif­i­cant fact to get a clear idea of this period is, the will­ing­ness of the greek pop­u­la­tion to pre­serve their own tra­di­tions, in order to keep their nation­al­ity, even under the dom­i­na­tion. Accord­ing to some opin­ions, this led to con­ser­vatism, since every­thing new was frowned upon as not gen­uinely greek.

The 20th cen­tury was a really rev­o­lu­tion­ary cen­tury for Greece, as of course for the entire world. First of all, the Wars in the North­ern Part of Greece for the Inde­pen­dence, and then, the exchange of pop­u­la­tions between Turkey and Greece, the World War II, the civil war between greek left­ists and right­ists, the gen­eral insta­bil­ity of Greek pol­i­tics in the mid-​1960s and finally the dic­ta­tor­ship in 1967, all that had as result the polar­i­sa­tion of the greek soci­ety and the con­sid­er­a­tion of the fam­ily as the only safe place. Of course the tra­di­tional fam­ily struc­ture was fur­ther enriched by the acqui­si­tion of new ter­ri­to­ries and refugees.

I would just like to notice, that although some­one would argue for the mod­erni­sa­tion of the fam­ily, we can see that some mod­ern ten­den­cies which man­i­fested them­selves in Europe, after the World War II and for the rest of the cen­tury, did not touch the greek soci­ety. Greece con­tin­ued to have a pre-​war legal frame and, of course, rather con­ser­v­a­tive in com­par­i­son to the rest of Europe.

The begin­ning of the new era actu­ally started in the 1975 with the new Con­sti­tu­tion, and in terms of Fam­ily issues, the most impor­tant reform of the greek fam­ily law, was held in 1983. The two prin­ci­ples which were dom­i­nant in the reform’s spirit were the equal­ity of the sexes and pro­tec­tion of the rights of chil­dren.

Young peo­ple today in Greece, in the 21st cen­tury, keep their fam­ily bonds very strong and they pre­serve the tra­di­tions alive in con­trast to other euro­pean coun­tries. The fam­ily sup­ports its chil­dren from the first day they open their wings to inde­pen­dence whether that means stud­ies or not.

After high school, young Greeks choose their way either by study­ing or work­ing. At the age of eigh­teen if they have passed at the Uni­ver­sity out of their town, they rent an apart­ment and they become their own mas­ters.

Of course their fam­ily is always present, help­ing their child to stand on his/​her own feet. But sev­eral times the change of res­i­dence and mov­ing to another town does not nec­es­sar­ily mean the end of the fam­ily care.

Many fam­i­lies over­pro­tect their chil­dren by exag­ger­at­ing ben­e­fits such as non stop money sup­ply, lux­u­ri­ous apart­ments and vehi­cles things which trap young peo­ple to a survival’s lethargy. None of the instincts is awak­ened because sim­ply every need is already cov­ered, even though they don’t live with their par­ents.

On the other hand there are stu­dents whose par­ents do not have the finan­cial flex­i­bil­ity to cor­re­spond to such expenses but can only afford a cheap rent. That young stu­dent has to get a job in order to help his/​her par­ents and rec­og­nize their offer. He /​she becomes respon­si­ble and fills with con­fi­dence as he/​she earns money by himself/​herself and orga­nizes his/​her income with­out aggra­vat­ing the fam­ily.

In both cases we have to under­line that the fam­ily is basi­cally a school for the young per­son. That means that his/​her new life will be formed accord­ing to the style that he/​she is accus­tomed to, hav­ing as a pro­to­type his/​her pater­nal house­hold. Par­ents shape the child’s per­son­al­ity even when he/​she becomes an adult.

Inde­pen­dence is a nice thing in the­ory. In prac­tice things are not easy and that shows when a young adult chooses to move and live alone.7 out of 10 Greeks, aged from 2529, vote for the pater­nal home and they leave their fam­ily later than expected. And that’s because they want to leave their par­ents but they want this inde­pen­dence to be defined by them, by their own pow­ers and with­out the finan­cial help of their father and mother.

Many of them find a job, decide to rent a place and cover their expenses them­selves. But the high prices and work inse­cu­rity do not allow that and so they return home with inde­pen­dence remain­ing a dream.

The greek fam­ily is not col­laps­ing. Accord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Geor­gas from the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­ogy ( Kapodis­trian Uni­ver­sity of Athens) research shows that Greece and Cyprus are included between the first coun­tries con­cern­ing the efforts of the pre­serv­ing and strength­en­ing of fam­ily mem­bers rela­tion­ships.

Fam­ily has been always been a shel­ter for work prob­lems, emo­tional insta­bil­i­ties and per­sonal mat­ters. The greek fam­ily has been always open to its chil­dren and wants them to be close even when they are mar­ried. They keep warm, strong rela­tion­ships with their mar­ried chil­dren even by stay­ing at the same house with them. Greece stands among the coun­tries of the E.U. with the higher per­cent­age for extended fam­i­lies (22%). .

The forms of fam­ily that pre­vail in Greece refer mainly to the dis­tinc­tion between the con­ju­gal and the extended fam­ily. The con­ju­gal fam­ily includes the hus­band and wife and their chil­dren. The extended fam­ily includes the con­ju­gal fam­ily as well as ascen­dants of the hus­band and/​or wife. Fam­i­lies are fur­ther dis­tin­guished in com­plete con­ju­gal and incom­plete con­ju­gal fam­i­lies (e.g., one-​parent families).The def­i­n­i­tion of the fam­ily is often con­fused with other terms — for exam­ple, house­hold.

The National Sta­tis­ti­cal Ser­vice of Greece con­sid­ers all peo­ple who live under the same roof to be mem­bers of the fam­ily, regard­less of whether they are related or not. In Greece, fam­ily life and the posi­tion of chil­dren have changed sub­stan­tially with the evo­lu­tion of the tra­di­tional rural-​agricultural life into an urban industrial-​modern sys­tem .

Anthro­po­log­i­cal research on Greek rural life sug­gests that the impor­tance of the Greek fam­ily was reflected in the sig­nif­i­cance attached to the role of the mother. Although the man acted as the family’s out­side rep­re­sen­ta­tive, enjoy­ing the social pres­tige and esteem that this role entailed, the woman was the orga­nizer of the house­hold, the medi­a­tor in fam­ily dis­putes, and the guardian of the family’s cohe­sive­ness. The family’s image rested in large mea­sure on the woman’s abil­ity to carry out her house­hold duties prop­erly. If grand­par­ents who live near their mar­ried chil­dren are added to fam­i­lies of three gen­er­a­tions, the total per­cent­age of daily con­tacts between the three gen­er­a­tions increases. Exchange and assis­tance between the two adult gen­er­a­tions and the young on the one hand, and influ­ence of the elder rel­a­tives on the other, are com­mon pat­terns. In the West, apart from the ones already men­tioned in the Greek soci­ety, new types of fam­ily are already accepted and widely exist­ing within the accept­able bound­aries of soci­ety. Same-​sex cou­ples now form a fam­ily and more are they frowned upon. Many leg­is­la­tions have now a pro­vi­sion for same sex mar­riages. Apart from that many coun­tries have legal­ized the adop­tion by homo­sex­ual cou­ples. Among them the UK, some states of the USA, the Nether­lands, Belgium,Norway and many more. And it is a mat­ter of time before this is widely spread to the whole world as part of the human rights pol­icy of the United Nations. In addi­tion a very com­mon type is the single-​parent-​headed house­hold. This kind is mainly formed either because one of the par­ents has per­ished, or because the par­ents have sep­a­rated.

Nowa­days as glob­al­i­sa­tion takes over and west­ern ways of life are vastly pre­sented by the media and basi­cally by the Inter­net the Greek fam­ily pat­tern is shift­ing. The tra­di­tional char­ac­ter­is­tics are over­thrown by mod­ern more conjugal-​ones that pro­mote equal­ity of the gen­ders within and out of the fam­ily frame­work. The num­ber of alumni from Greek uni­ver­si­ties increases each year and women have taken their own place in the work-​market com­pe­ti­tion. Social the­o­ries grounded that on eco­nomic pros­per­ity and the ambi­tion of the younger gen­er­a­tions to acquire a more pres­ti­gious social sta­tus. Eco­nomic reces­sion of the last few years has taken its part in the social devel­op­ment of fam­ily gen­er­ally as an insti­tu­tion in greece and slowed down this process-​change. The ten­dency for inde­pen­dency from the fam­i­lies now has been slowed down. Chil­dren basi­cally tend to stay with their par­ents till they can rel­a­tively rely on them­selves and earn a descent liv­ing. The period that they usu­ally need rec­og­niz­ing cur­rent unem­ploy­ment rates is usu­ally some few years until they can make it exclu­sively on their own. In other words eco­nomic reces­sion has strength­ened fam­ily ties that have started to loosen up a bit. Eco­nomic rea­sons are the liai­son mainly.

Even though fam­ily stands and will stand in the cen­turies unharmed. It endures because it offers the truth of mor­tal­ity and immor­tal­ity within the same group. The fam­ily endures because, bet­ter than the com­mune, or class­room, it seems to indi­vid­u­al­ize and social­ize its chil­dren, to make us feel at the same time unique and yet joined to all human­ity, accepted as is and yet chal­lenged to grow, loved uncon­di­tion­ally and yet pro­pelled by greater expec­ta­tions. Only in the fam­ily can so many extremes be rec­on­ciled and syn­the­sized. Only in the fam­ily do we have a life­time in which to do it. Some­times our hearts get tan­gled and our souls a lit­tle off-​kilter but fam­ily can set us right and help guide us back to the light. And that is the eter­nal mean­ing of the fam­ily apart from all the pat­terns and types it main­tains an very unique and spe­cial role in each and every ones lives, cause love is what keeps it together. We can see the big­ger pic­ture that way, think of fam­ily as love.

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