1. All human beings, regardless of culture, belong to a family. One’s biological family is the first and probably most significant socialization influence on a child. The structure of the family and the degree of influence a family has on its children differ notably across cultures. As a unit, the nuclear family is prevalent in most low context, individualistic, low power distance cultures. In collectivistic cultures, families are generally cohesive and well integrated.
2. Two terms related to the family structure, which are sometimes confused, are patriarchy and matriarchy. By definition, patriarchy refers to a social system (e.g., familial, political) in which the father, or eldest male, is head of the clan or family unit and descent is traced through the male line. In patriarchal societies, males wield power disproportionately compared with women. This does not mean all men are powerful or all women are powerless. In patriarchal societies the most powerful roles are held predominantly by men and the less powerful roles by women. Matriarchy, on the other hand, is often incorrectly thought to mean the opposite of patriarchy. In matriarchal cultures the natural differences between men and women are acknowledged and respected, but they are not used to create social hierarchies, as in patriarchal societies. Men and women complement each other, and their natural differences function interdependently to meet societal needs
3. In the Hmong culture of Laos, the most important sociocultural groups are the family and the clan, both of which are headed by men (i.e., patriarchal). The Hmong clan system combines social, political, economic, and religious dimensions and is the primary guide for Hmong behavior. Within a clan, each person has certain obligations to others.
4. Two important variables in understanding Korean family structure are family surname and Confucianism. There are only about 250 family names in South Korea and North Korea. In fact, more than half the population uses one of five family names: Kim, Yi, Pak, Ch’oe, and Chong. One in five family names in Korea is Kim. Many Koreans believe that because of their common family names, they are descended from a common ancestor. Hence, many Koreans belong to formal family name organizations called taejonghoe and one’s social status is often determined by membership in a specific family name lineage. Patriarchal Confucianism has been the dominant social force in Korea. They point out that Confucianism imposes a rigid hierarchy and inequality between different age groups and between men and women, especially within families.
5. Family in Israel is defined as “two or more persons who share the same household and are related to one another as husband and wife, or as an unmarried couple, or as parent and child.” Israel is unique in that a strong family orientation is a formal part of Israeli social policy. A central goal of the Israeli government has been to increase the Jewish population via family. For example, the Israeli income tax system includes tax benefits for families, at least two state programs provide housing assistance for families with children, and various child support and child health programs have been established for families.
6. The Mosuo are one of China’s microcultural nationalities. In recent years, the Mosuo have become the focus of national and international attention (much of it distorted) because they follow the matrilineal family principle of descent, are thought to be matriarchal, and practice zou hun—sometimes called “walking” or “visiting” marriages. Many household heads are women, only one third of households are headed by men. Perhaps one of the most intriguing dimensions of the Mosuo family structure is the idea of the “walking” or “visiting” marriage. In Mosuo culture, the primary function of marriage is to satisfy the individual’s emotional and biological needs. Both the man and the woman continue to live with their native biological families, rather than with each other, while raising their offspring. In fact, the father does not take any responsibility for the children. The terms walking marriage or visiting marriage stem from the practice of the father visiting the mother only at night, engaging in sexual relations with her, and leaving early in the morning.
7. While contemporary Kenyan society is in transition, traditional Kenyan society includes patriliny (the practice of tracing descent through the father’s line), patriarchy (a family that is controlled by a man or a group of men), and polygyny (the practice of having more than one wife or female mate at a time). An important part of marriage in Kenya is the phenomena of bridewealth, in which money or some form of payment is passed from the groom’s family to the bride. Another familial phenomenon widely practiced in Kenya hypergamy, which is when a woman marries a man of higher status than her, although this is certainly not unique to Kenya. High-status urban women may find it difficult to marry because they may desire to be free of the patriarchal control, they may fear losing face by marrying a man of lower status, or they may be too old to compete with younger women who have yet to establish their high-status credibility.43
8. Violence and abuse within married and cohabitating couples remains a problem in Kenya. Just over half of Kenyan women report physical abuse, 40% report sexual abuse, 64% report verbal abuse, and 54% report emotional abuse. Moreover, 43% claimed the abuse was ongoing, while 53% reported that the abuse was increasing. And the abuse of women is not just by their husbands or partners, but is often committed by their mothers and fathers-in-laws.