Turkish Village
Household Dynamics

The two most important units of Turkish peasant social organization are the corporate village community and the household. Domestic organization conforms to a classic pattern of patrilocal residence, through which The result is a patrilocal extended family, which, in its full extent, includes an elder household head and his wife, his adult sons and daughters-in-law, and his grandchildren. Its size may total up to 20 people.

The Domestic Cycle: Household Growth

The unit begins as a nuclear family.

In the next generation, daughters move out; sons remain as their wives move in and bear children to form an extended patrilocal household.

The domestic economy is controlled and coordinated by the male household head, who owns the farm land, domestic animals, and other family assets. Sons work under their father's direction and must turn over all their income to him. This responsibility applies even to income that they earn outside of the household, including wages from migrant labour, in which a large proportion of the village men participate. Control over sons is an important source of personal wealth and status, and heads of large households are especially prominent in the village hierarchy.

Except for unmarried daughters, the women of the household are affinally related and are placed under the authority of their mothers-in-law. They are generally confined to the inner rooms, where, according to the dictates of purdah, they cannot be seen by men other than those of the household. This restriction limits their abilty to go out in public or to visit members of their families of origin. In-laws and neighbours provide the main context for social interaction. Men tend to spend most of their time in male-only "guest rooms" hosted by the wealthier household heads. Women past the age of child-bearing have more freedom and may even becoming regular guest room attendees.

The integrity and importance of a residential family develops only during the course of the household head's lifetime. Upon his death, land and other property is divided equally among all his sons, and they each form a new domestic unit with their wives and children forming a core for the renewal of the cycle.

The Domestic Cycle: Household division A

Upon the father's death his sons divide his property and settle into new households.
Their mother usually moves in with one of her sons.

The new households are often located near to the parental home, and close relations among brothers continues after separation within a named patrilineal group. (See section on Turkish village lineages).

Turkish law and Islamic traditions specify that daughters have inheritance rights, but these were rarely upheld in village inheritance disputes. Accordingly, most property passes through generations of fathers and sons along a patrilineal line. However, the continual subdivision of property in each generation mitigates against the permanent accumulation of great amounts of wealth within individual families.

Exceptions to the patrilocal rule sometimes occur because of tension between fathers and sons or among brothers. The most common source of family conflict is a household head's remarriage. Although polygyny is rare, it does occur, and men almost always take new wives after a divorce or bereavement. On these occasions sons of a first or former wife usually move out to form new households and are effectively disinherited.

The Domestic Cycle: Household Division B

The family may divide before a household head's death in cases of conflict,
usually caused by a father's remarriage.

It should be noted that a patrilocal residence rule does not mean that all or even most households are patrilocal at any one time. In fact in Sakaltutan only a quarter of the households were patrilocal and only a third of the inhabitants resided patrilocally. The majority actually lived in nuclear family settings. This pattern was mainly a result of the domestic cycle and a demographic peculiarity of a high mortality for men over 40.

The Distribution of Household Types.


Source: Turkish Village: page 38.

Thus there is an apparent empirical or statistical norm that people usually reside in nuclear family households, which contrasts to a cultural norm that people should reside patrilocally. From the perspective of the domestic cycle rather than a single point in time, however, almost every villager will reside in a patrilocal extended family during some periods of his or her life.

For more information about rural Turkey's household organization see Turkish Village Chapter 6 and Chapter 7.

© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Page created 1995