Impact of War on the Family

Lebanon Table of Contents

The protracted Civil War has made the task of conducting empirical research on marriage habits almost impossible. Available statistics indicate that familial and marital habits differ among sects. Christian families tend to be smaller than Muslim- -particularly Shia--families. According to a 1970 survey, the average Lebanese Christian family excluding Maronites had 3.57 children, the Sunni 4.38, and the Shia 5.01. A striking aspect of marriage habits in Lebanon, especially after 1975, was the impact of recession on marriage. The high cost of living and housing and the difficulty in finding employment caused men to marry later. In the past, Lebanese men and women married at an early age, but in the 1980s in Beirut the average age for marriage was 31 years for men and 22.5 for women. Economic difficulties also forced more families to resort to birth control, so that the size of the average Lebanese family has declined appreciably.

A study conducted in 1983 indicated, however, that marriage was common among the population of Greater Beirut, with only 10 percent or fewer of the population remaining single at ages above forty. The majority of females at age twenty-five or older were married; a majority of males at age thirty or older were also married. Moreover, very few adult males or females were separated or divorced. The percentage of widows forty years of age and less was considerably higher than that for males of the same age. Marriages based on personal choices of the spouses as opposed to familyarranged marriages increased with the gradual elimination of traditional boundaries between the sexes. However, family-arranged marriages continued to be practiced across geographical and social boundaries. They were preferred among the economic elite of the cities as a means of preserving wealth and status within the same extended family, or within the same social group.

One study conducted in the early 1980s on the impact of the war on family structure concluded that there was a clear decline in divorce. This probably occurred because of the huge costs involved: payment of deferred dowry, alimony for children, and support of the woman during the prescribed period during which she may not remarry.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress