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The Family

The family has been valued as the main social institution in the Islamic and pre-Islamic cultures of Iran. In the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the family is defined as the fundamental unit of society and the major center for the growth and advancement of human beings (Tabari and Yeganeh 1982). In traditional Iranian culture, as in any other collectivist society, the kinship and family (khanevadeh, khanevar, tayefeh, eel-o-ashireh) is a closely linked network in which the highest priority is assigned to the welfare of the members, rather than to individual goals (Triandis 1995). The family in Iran is considered the most important factor in bonding people, and family ties take precedence over all other social relationships (Hojat et al. 2000).

Sociopolitical changes in Iran have affected young people's marital aspirations, preferences, and the function and structure of the family. Some indicators of this change are the marked rise in the age at first marriage; the tendency of many to remain unmarried until relatively late in life when they become financially independent; the widespread use of contraceptives and the consequent sharp decline in fertility rate and family size; and the gradual rise in divorce rates.

According to the majority of Shi-e theologians, the minimum ages for marriage for women and men are from seven to nine and twelve to fifteen years, respectively. At the close of the twentieth century, the age of marital consent for women was thirteen in Iran (Tohidi 1994). The emphasis on early marriage is partly based on the extremely negative attitude toward premarital sex and a belief that men and women who remain unmarried after early puberty risk engaging in forbidden sexual gratification.

Ironically, although the Islamic regime encouraged early marriage, the average age at first marriage during the period between 1976 and 1996 actually increased from 19.7 to 22.4 for women, and from 24.1 to 25.6 for men. Also, the proportion of women who married before age 19 decreased drastically during this period, from 34 to 18 percent (the corresponding proportions for men are 7% and 3%). Despite these tends, according to population statistics, over 90 percent of Iranian men and women are married by age 30.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsIran - Marriage, Endogamy And Polygamy, Arranged Marriages, Temporary Marriage (sigheh), The Family, Premarital Sex And Extramarital Relationships