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The Arab Family and the Challenge of Change

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Haim Barakat

From The Arab World
© 1993 University of California Press
Used with permission. Print edition available here.


The family is the basic unit of social organization in traditional and contemporary Arab society. At the center of social and economic activities, it is a relatively cohesive social institution. Yet the family has been undergoing significant change and needs to be examined in the context of the transitional nature of Arab society. That is, the family becomes one of the crucial social units to respond to, as well as to be shaped by, the changing social structure, the ongoing confrontations with value systems, and the struggle for social transformation in response to formidable challenges. A comprehensive understanding of family cohesiveness and transformation requires an examination, in turn, of (1) the characteristic features of the Arab family; (2) patterns of marriage and divorce; and (3) placement of the family within society, and in relation to other social institutions.

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