This past week, I was graced with the presence of an Omani student here at Ohio University. With this experience I learned that his family consisted of TEN children, 5 male and 5 female with ages ranging from 7 to 24 years old. I also learned that most of his siblings lived at home, even if they had a family of their own. The family dynamics in the Middle East are significantly different than the United States, which reflects ideas of individualism rather than collectivism.
An individualistic society is filled with independent people who are not reliant on others. A collectivistic society sees their culture as one and dependent on each other. For example, one person’s actions are seen as reflecting the image of the whole society, while an individualistic person is not affected by the actions of others and does not seem them as a reflection of their own personal self or values. These two concepts are what differentiate the family dynamics of cultures such as the Middle East compared to the United States.
In the United States today, family dinners rarely occur at a dining room table and instead occur in distracting settings like in front of the television. It is normal for most parents to be unaware of their child’s everyday life since if dinner does occur at the dinner table, there is hardly human interaction because kids are distracted by social media outlets and texting.
In the United States, families are mostly separated. It is tradition, or national thought that a child is no longer a child at the age of 18, and is able to distance themselves from their parents and leave the home, as well as lose contact and stray from set rules from those who have raised them over their lifetime. Other relatives such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins are most likely distant from families as well. For example, I live three hours away from most of my family, and I even have aunts, uncles, and cousins who live clear across the country from me. Despite the distance however, I have been fortunate enough to have a family that has remained close over the years.
In the Middle East, families remain close and take pride in their dependability on one another. In this culture, family is first and then everything is after that. Priority of the family honor is also high on a traditional family from the Middle East’s importance. It is common for most Muslim families to be patriarchal. This means that the father, or the oldest male in the family such as a grandfather is seen as a dominant figure that is in control of the family. The dominant member of the family demands obedience from the rest of the members and ultimate respect. It is important to remember that not all families are traditionally the same and vary in dynamics.
Middle Eastern families are heavily engaged in each others lives and aware of what is going on among them. It is not out of the ordinary that meals are cooked with family members around and ready to help as well as engage with their family.
Would you say the dynamics of your family are closer to the styles in the Middle East or in the United States? What do you think about the family style opposite of your own? Also, coming from an individualistic society such as the United States, would you rather have a society that is collectivistic?
Ethnic Variation/Ethnicity – Middle Eastern Families. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://family.jrank.org/pages/464/Ethnic-Variation-Ethnicity-Middle-Eastern-Families.html
The Middle East – A Relationship Driven Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2014, from http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/cultural-services/articles/middleeast.html