Marriage and Family
Courtesy Office of the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,"
Turkish Cypriots were generally concerned with
honor, prestige, and economic prosperity of their
families. A major
part of the thought, energy, and income of the family went
educating children, marrying them well, and helping them
jobs. More than in most Western societies, Turkish
conscious of their family as a whole and identified
how its individual members fared as part of this whole.
socio-economic changes in recent decades have led to the
of two types of families in Turkish Cypriot society:
and largely rural, and modern and urban.
The traditional family maintained strong links between
nuclear or core family and the extended family. The
included the parents' siblings and their children,
and in many cases second and third cousins. Within this
network, financial and social support were key links among
members. When one of the extended family suffered economic
hardship, that person could expect aid from able
relatives. It was
also common to help relatives in the field or on the farm.
The nuclear or core traditional family might include
the husband and wife and their unmarried children, but
also a newly
married son and his family, and sometimes the mother's
presence of the mother's parents in the core family was an
important variation from the traditional Turkish family
in which the husband's parents lived with the family.
According to traditional Turkish family structure, the
married into the groom's family and became virtually a
the household. The legitimation of the bride's lower
found in the custom of baslik parasi (bonnet money)
practiced in traditional Turkish society and reintroduced
Cyprus by some Turkish settlers after 1974. According to
custom, money or valuable goods were paid to the bride's
the bridegroom and his family. If the bridegroom was
unable to meet
the amount specified by the bride's father, the marriage
occur. In this practice, the money paid to the father did
toward helping the newlyweds in any form. Rather, the
with the girl's father. Widely practiced in rural Turkey,
custom frequently results in the marriages of unwilling
long absence of this custom among Turkish Cypriots was a
women's more secure and higher status on the island.
Turkish Cypriots employed a different form of financial
arrangement in marriages, drahoma, a dowry custom
Cypriot origin. It is probable that over the centuries the
Cypriots recognized the advantages of this custom and
adapted it to
their own needs. Drahoma, as practiced by Greek
required that the bride's family provide substantial
the newlyweds. Turkish Cypriots modified it to include
from both families. Traditionally, the bride's family
house, some furniture, and money as part of their
The bridegroom's family met the young couple's remaining
needs. If the bride's family was unable to provide such
the young couple lived with the bride's family until they
enough money to set up their own separate household.
bride brought to her new home the rest of her dowry, known
cehiz, making the new family financially more
advantages of drahoma were so obvious to the
community that modern families also practiced it.
In the traditional Turkish Cypriot family, the father
last word in his children's choice of spouses.
bride and groom did not have a chance for individual
to their engagement. Usually, an elderly member of the
family went to the young woman's parents and asked for her
marriage. If her father agreed, gifts were exchanged
two families and the engagement took place.
Originally, the wedding ceremonies for the bridegroom
occurred separately. Turkish Cypriots no longer practiced
custom. Only the Turkish rural migrants to Cyprus
tradition of separate ceremonies. In rural Turkish Cypriot
the bride and bridegroom attended the same ceremony and
festivities lasted for several days.
Women of traditional families generally did not work
the home. Their responsibility was to tend to the
domestic tasks, while husbands and sons dealt with
other concerns outside the home.
In contrast to the traditional family, the modern
structure revolved around the nuclear family and had a
urban character. While maintaining close social ties with
extended family, members of the nuclear family remained
economically isolated from other relatives. There were
economic relations among nuclear and extended family
they were far less common than with the traditional
Another important difference between traditional and
families was that marriage was not under the strict
control of the
father. Young couples often decided on marriage
Although dating, as practiced in the United States, was
even at the beginning of the 1990s, couples met together
groups of friends. Once a couple decided to marry, both
parents were consulted. The families then arranged the
and marriage. As noted, drahoma was also practiced
The modern family usually consisted of only the
and unmarried children. Large multigenerational extended
were unusual. While the husband continued even in the
1980s to have
a strong decision-making role, the wife became
involved in the family's economic and social choices. A
factor in the wife's changing family role was that she
outside the home to support the family.
Working wives and mothers were a relatively new
Turkish Cypriot society. Until the post-1974 period, few
worked outside the home and even fewer had professional
Men's earnings had to be sufficient to satisfy the needs
families, and women typically remained home and focused
efforts on raising their children.
After the 1974 war, this traditional arrangement lost
predominance. Once Turkish Cypriots established a
their own, they faced immense difficulties in managing its
institutions and creating a functioning economy. Adding to
intrinsic difficulties of these tasks were the lack of
international recognition of their state and the Greek
economic blockade. Under these circumstances, women's
in the work force became essential to meet both their
their families' needs. Building a new state required
hire trained personnel of both sexes to fill positions in
bureaucracy. As a result, Turkish Cypriot women came to be
outside the home to a much greater extent than previously.
Women's absence from home worked a hardship on families
children. For the first time, child care became a serious
Turkish Cypriot society. Day-care centers were established
cases, but when day-care centers were unavailable,
frequently helped care for their children's offspring. The
emergence of the child care problem was an unfortunate
women's employment. It was an indication, however, that
structure of many Turkish Cypriot families in urban areas
become Westernized, in contrast to how Turkish Cypriots
a generation earlier.
Divorce was legal in the "TRNC." During the first eight
of the 1980s, there was an increase in the number of
149 in 1980 to 177 in 1987. The increase was slightly
the increase in marriages, which went from 1,058 in 1981,
in 1987. Incompatibility was the cause given for about 90
of divorces. The highest frequency of divorce occurred in
year of marriage.
Data as of January 1991