Child-Rearing Practices

Lebanon Table of Contents

The major reason for marrying is procreation. A wife without children, or even one without male children, is an object of sympathy. Also, among those Christians not under the Holy See and among Muslims, she is threatened with divorce. The importance placed on having sons is reflected in the festivities attendant upon birth. At the birth of a child, the father will give a feast; if the child is a boy, the feast will be more lavish and the guests more numerous. It is always made clear within the family that male children are preferred and are given special privileges.

When the first boy is born to a married couple, friends no longer address them by their given names alone but call them by the name of their son; for instance, "father of x" and "mother of x." They continue to be addressed by the name of their first-born son, even in the event of his death. With respect to naming children, traditionally one male in every generation is given the name of his grandfather to pay respect to the older man and to honor his memory after his death.

Child-rearing practices in Lebanon are characterized by the severe discipline imposed by the father and overprotection by the mother, who strives to compensate for the rigidity of the father. In Arab society parental control does not stop at age eighteen (when a child is considered independent in most Western societies), but continues as long as the child lives in the father's residence or until the child marries. Furthermore, the practice of the father and mother making major decisions on behalf of their offspring pertains to marriage, especially the son's marriage; the daughter comes under the control of her in-laws. Arranged marriages are still practiced widely across the socioeconomic and sectarian spectrum.

Children are not trained to be independent, and expect their father to care for them as long as they are loyal and obedient. Punishment can be in the form of intimidation (takhjil, literally to incite fear and shame) or physical punishment. A study of the impact of the war noted a decline in parental authority due to extensive involvement of young men in armed militias.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress