Family as the Focus of Arab Social Activities and its Significance
By: Ala Abed-Rabbo/Arab America Contributing Writer
In Arab societies, a family is a primary concern. The family is considered the central social security system for the elderly and young and older people. In the Arab culture, parents take care of their children well into their adult lives, and children reciprocate by taking responsibility for their parents as they age. The responsibilities that Arabs usually handle are done with great pride.
Marriage for Arab cultures is both a family and an individual matter. Arabs consider marriage the turning point that defines status, recognition, and societal consent on both partners, mainly the bride. They believe marriage to be a social and financial contract between the two families. It is also the right arrangement of culturally, socially, and legally acceptable relationships.
The Honor and Respect in Arab Family Households
The typical Arab family is highly male-controlled, and Arab society strongly encourages people to have large families. Integrity and disgrace are a product of the family unit. It is a significant duty to preserve the family honor and keep the family name in respectable standing among the public. Thus, all matters of the family remain private because it is dishonorable for others to know about the private details of an Arab household.
Arab families sacrifice individuality to keep family cohesiveness where self-perception, safekeeping, and identity derived from family relationships. Problems arise when family members are lonely from family care, during disagreement of the family unit, or when personal complications discussed outside the kinship network, which brings indignity to the family.
The Children and Elder’s Respect in an Arab Household
Children are respected as they provide parents with higher societal status, drive in life, and connections within the family structure. Children are to respect their elders, socialized to obey parents, be dedicated to their family, and prove devoutness to parents.
In the Arab culture, as one becomes older, respect and esteem increase. In a family unit, elderly parents are valued for their life experiences, knowledge, and hierarchic position. Overall, in the descending order, the parents, spouses, and elder children have higher decision-making power than the rest of the relatives.
The Family Structure:
The Arab family structure is mostly patriarchal and built on an extended family system spanning three or plus generations. This expanded structure provides constancy, physical and emotional support, predominantly in times of need. It is beneficial to recognize the structure of these generations within a family, the grandparents, parents, and children.
In some Arab households, it is acceptable to marry more than one wife; this may generate complex family dynamics. Islam, in such societies, sets out mandatory requirements to guarantee equal treatment of each wife and support for children.
The Arab Household Members and their Roles
Most Arabs regard men and women as having the same rights, but dissimilar though equally vital roles. Within the Arab values, functional roles depend on gender and age lines. Mostly, men are responsible for all matters that deal with outside the home and for supporting families financially. The father or husband is the head and final decision-maker. The role is to deliver basic needs and manage financial concerns. He is the chief guard for the family and has precise responsibility as protector and guardian for the female members in his household, such as his mother, wife, and daughters.
Meanwhile, the mother and wife’s leading role is to nurture the family and to ensure the social facets of the family relative to the extended family and society household tasks. Her part is to be the caregiver, caring for the children, husband, the extended family, and the elder relatives. The mother is responsible for raising children based on culture and guiding children through the growing and developmental process.
Grandparents are remarkably respected in their role to ‘bless a home’, ‘hold the knowledge and life experiences’ for the family, and provide guidance on all matters. The grandfather is usually the head of the family. The grandmother’s household status mostly comes ‘after’ the grandfather in decision-making but holds the same valued position in the family.
Older women yield to older men when it comes to deciding on specific matters but uphold a higher standing than men of a younger age. Typically, the Arab family will not make any important decisions until they ask the elder member, associates of the family, or extended family first.
Children are taught and told to respect and honor their elders, along with faithfulness to one’s family. It is usual for family elders to teach duty and independence to their young ones. Parents expect children to endure traditions and later take over the family’s everyday jobs. Arab culture values reputation heavily.
Family is Important in an Arab Household
To be a part of an Arab family would give the individual a sense of safety because each family member cares, supports, and pays attention to one another. Also, Arabs keep their family traditions alive. Most Arab families use honorific names in preference to given names. Many Arabs call the man ‘Ibn’ which means ‘son of’ followed by his father’s name or ‘Abu’ meaning ‘father of’ followed by his child’s name.
“Besides their faith, family is the second most important element to Arabs.” In traditional Arab societies, particularly in the rural areas, the family unit is an extended family, consisted of cousins, grandparents, second cousins, cousins-in-law, nieces, nephews, and more, and all usually live together.
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