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Jordan

 
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Jordan

Changing Social Relations and Values

Relations between men and women, along with all other aspects of Jordanian society, had begun to change as people adopted values, attitudes, and customs much different from those traditional in the country. As new ideas reached all sectors of society, new perceptions and practices began to appear.

Increased social and physical mobility have undermined the familial ties and the values that subordinated the individual to the kin group. A growing individualism has appeared, especially among the educated young. Many young people prefer to set up their own household at marriage rather than live with their parents. Labor migration has had a considerable impact on family structure and relations. In some cases, where men migrate without their families, their wives and children see the husband only once or twice a year when he visits. If the wife and children live alone, this arrangement leads to increased responsibility and autonomy for women. Also, the children in such families grow up without knowing their fathers well. When the wife and children live with the migrant's extended family, they are usually under the authority of her husband's family.

Some of the most marked social changes have affected women's roles. In urban areas, young women have begun to demand greater freedom and equality than in the past, although traditional practices still broadly govern their lives. Since the 1960s, women have become more active outside the home. In the 1980s, girls' school enrollment was nearly parallel to that of boys, and female graduates entered the work force in increasing numbers (see Jordan - Education , this ch.). Girls who attended school were not as closely chaperoned as they formerly were, although they rarely went out with friends in the evening. Educated women also tended to marry later, often after working for several years. The average age of marriage for women had risen from the mid-teens to the early twenties; the average age for males was between twenty-six and twenty-eight years. The narrowing of the gap in age between marriage partners signified a changing conception of the conjugal unit and its relation to the larger family group. Companionship and notions of romantic love were playing a greater role in marital arrangements than heretofore. Marriages were still a family affair, but the relationship between man and wife was assuming increasing significance. This change reflected a dilution in the strength of families as social units with corporate interests that subordinated those of the individual.

By the late 1980s, some observers had noted that couples tended to want fewer children. This trend appeared to parallel the changes in women's position in society and shifts in the political economy, which had implications for family structure, relations, and values. Women's education and employment patterns meant that child rearing was no longer the only role open to women. The need for dual-income households pointed to a decrease in the amount of time women could devote to child rearing. In the transition from an agricultural and pastoral society to one based on services, where literacy was a must, children required longer periods of education and thus were dependent for extended periods upon their families. Large families were no longer as economically feasible or desirable as in the past.

The spread of the nuclear household encouraged the detachment of the individual from the demands of the extended family. At the same time, social security lessened the dependence of the aged on their children and other relatives. The functions of the extended family, however, were not necessarily diminished; given economic upheavals and a weak infrastructure for state social services, Jordanians continued to rely upon the extended family, even if many of its members resided in nuclear units.

Generational conflicts, which observers believed to be increasing, strained family relations when young people attempted to adopt standards and behavior different from those of their parents. Modern, secular education, with its greater emphasis on utility and efficiency, tended to undermine respect for the wisdom of age and the rightness of tradition. Male wage earners also were less dependent on older males for access to resources such as land and bridewealth.

Data as of December 1989


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