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 25 – 29, 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.