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June 21, 2013 / C H Thompson

Pre-Industrial Families

Contemporary families are changing in ways that suggest to some that the family is in decline. Baca Zinn and Eitzen show how social forces impact families and cause them to change over time.

Pre-Industrial Families 1600-1800 had large numbers of children. Family life in the pre-industrial period was characterized by the dominance of a family-based economy which is explored in more detail pictorially on this page.

All family members worked at productive tasks differentiated by sex and age.  No sharp distinction was made between family and society.  In addition to its economic task of providing employment, the family performed many functions such as heath-care, education, welfare etc.BruegelCorn_Harvest

B.  Family Structure and Household Composition – this consisted of male head of the family, his wife and children, his aging parents (who will have passed on the farm). Together they worked as a productive unit producing the things needed to sustain the family’s survival. The key point is the kin relationship during this period is one of binding obligations. The obligation of carrying on working on the farm for the family’s survival.

C.  Wives and Husbands  – in the early colonial period, marriages were arranged based on the social and economic purposes of larger kin groups.  Romantic love was not wholly absent, but marriage was more of a contractual agreement based upon a specific and sharp gender-based division of labour.  A shortage of women in this period enhanced the status of women, but despite this, wives were unquestionably subordinate to their husbands.

D.  Children  – families of the premodern period reared large numbers of children, but household size was not very large because childbearing extended over a long span of years.  Children’s religious training was intensive and discipline severe.  Childhood was recognized as a separate stage of development, and children, like spouses, were viewed in economic terms.  Social class and regional differences, however, are responsible for some variation in the lives of children.

The following prezzi provides an overview of the above points.

Return to changing family structures

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One Comment

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  1. DoubleN / May 16 2015 10:55 am

    In this qns : Evaluate the view that conjugal relationships are based on equality in modern industrial societies .
    What can i say for the inequality in the pre industrial era ? Like the women used to work in the farm and the house but the man only worked in the farm . And that the man took all the decissions and the emotion work was done by the women again . But despite the privatisation of family in the modernindustrial era the situation remains the same through double burden and triple shifts .

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