Extended Families

Sursă imagine: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cornelis_de_Vos_-_Family_Portrait_-_WGA25308.jpg

Autor: prof. Bogdan Georgiana

Extended Families ( Part 2)

Historians have always been in search of documents and proofs of the way in which early modern England families functioned and they have been interested in discussing and analysing the different types of families and households of the period. According to Patricia Crawford, in „Blood, Bodies and Family in Early Modern England”, an extended family included two or even three generations living together in the same house – grandparents, their children and their families (63). Most families functioned on the principle that all members should have both rights and responsibilities within the household and they needed to be socially and economically active. The extended family did not necessarily live in the same house but they lived quite close to one another and shared most of the work and responsibilities.

When referring to extended families, early modern English families also had servants, who were considered to be part of the functional household; young people living in the countryside would leave their families to find work and most of the time they became servants; the children of gentle or noble families could also be servants to higher nobility families. Families employing servants would generally be careful about who the people were as they needed to find trustworthy servants, raised with the same morals and religious principles. This was because the servants shared the same space with the children of the family, who had to be exposed to constant similar models like those given by their parents. Servants were given care and guidance and their masters would expect them to learn good manners, to be polite and respectful and to be obedient to them.

In contemporary Romania, the extended family is a concept based on the same principle as the one in early modern England: helping children until they can handle their lives on their own. Romanian people see it as a moral responsibility for the elders to take care of the younger members of the family, to get them to school and even to entertain them. People see it as normal for grandparents to help with the grandchildren or for daughters and sons to change their lives when their parents become ill and need their help. Families tend to help each other because the children were brought up with the respect for the elders and for the members of their family.

Like in early modern England, the extended Romanian family does not necessarily involve people living in the same house but, in most situations, they choose to live close to each other; this provides the close links between them and encourages strong bonding. Children visit their parents as often as they possibly can and they even go on holidays together; grandparents spend time with their grandchildren, especially if the family cannot afford to pay for the services of a babysitter. Unlike early modern English families, most contemporary Romanian families do not have the money to hire servants to do the household chores or to take care of their children. This is something most of the rich families can do, and the relationships between masters and servants are somehow similar to early modern England ones; they are based on respect and obedience; they require reliability, discretion and professionalism.

Being part of an extended family, either in early modern England or in contemporary Romania, had some positive aspects, as well as some negative ones. Usually, it is customary for the oldest person to be the head of the family, the one who makes decisions or, at least, is consulted when decisions are to be made. Sometimes, this may lead to different misunderstandings and even conflicts between the young family and the old one. When children appear in the family, grandparents and parents are equally involved in their development and education. Nevertheless, it becomes a little frustrating for the children when they grow, as they are not very clear about who they have to listen to, especially when the grandparents are the ones controlling the household.

Families started to be formed with society itself and they continue to change and grow, based on the changes the society undergoes; they are influenced by economic, political, social, religious, and educational factors, and they will always find ways to adapt to them in order to maintain their role as the basic unit of a community or the society. Children need to be part of families, nuclear or extended ones, in which they are taught the morals and the values they need in life; the family is the first home for a child, it is the one that guides them in order to become fully integrated adults.



Crawford, Patricia. Blood, Bodies and Family in Early Modern England. New York: Pearson Education, 2004

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