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Bedouin-Arab Families

Family Dynamics In Bedouin-arab Society

The traditional Bedouin-Arab family mirrors the structure and dynamics of Bedouin society. Like the society as a whole, the Bedouin family is authoritarian, hierarchical, dominated by males, and oriented to the group (Al-Krenawi 1998a, 2000).

The identity and self-concept of the individuals in the family are inextricably linked with the collective identity of the family, hamula, and tribe (Al-Krenawi 2000). The Western ideal of an autonomous, individualized self bears little relevance to the pattern of psychosocial development in the traditional Bedouin family (Al-Krenawi 1998a). Conversely, the honor and reputation of the family are reflected in the behavior of its members. Thus, if a family member is successful, the entire family enjoys the credit. If the family member violates social norms, the entire family loses honor and feels shame (Al-Krenawi 2000).

This interdependency at these basic psychological and social levels necessitates considerable self-sacrifice on the part of all family members and issues in a strong system of family control over all aspects of the members' lives. Major life decisions, such as who to marry, where to live, what occupation to pursue, and so forth, are determined with strong reference to, and often by, the nuclear and extended family (Al-Krenawi 2000).

Emotional expression is also controlled. Individuals are not permitted to express negative emotions, such as anger and jealousy, towards family members (Al-Krenawi 1998a). Unacceptable emotions are generally expressed indirectly: through metaphoric speech, acting out, or the development of physical symptoms that have no organic basis. Intrafamily communication styles tend to be restrained, impersonal, and formal.

Family roles and relationships are governed by gender and age, with males taking precedence over females (Al-Krenawi 1998a). At the same time, the honor of the family is also reflected in the behavior of its females. Because Bedouin-Arab view women as temptresses, women are closely supervised in order to preserve the family's honor. Their social contacts are traditionally confined to the family circle and, within the family, they are subjected to various degrees of segregation (Mass and Al-Krenawi 1994; Abu-Lughod 1986).


Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsBedouin-Arab Families - Marriage And Divorce, Family Dynamics In Bedouin-arab Society, Interpersonal Dynamics, The Impact Of Societal Change