Country Listing

Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


The Family

In the mid-1980s, the family remained a significant force in Czechoslovak society, despite more than thirty-five years of KSC rule. Families played a pivotal role, according to many observers, in transmitting just those characteristic Czech and Slovak values that have often been criticized by the regime, e.g., the Czech penchant for political pluralism and the Slovak devotion to Roman Catholicism. Nevertheless, socialism has had a distinctive if often unpredictable effect on family life. The employment of the vast majority of married women of child-bearing age has favored three-generation extended families, in which grandparents (especially grandmothers) have helped women deal with the often conflicting demands of work and child rearing (see Workers , this ch.). Family cooperation remained important because child-care centers could not accommodate all children of working mothers, nor would the centers accept children who were ill.

Extended families in which a relative played a significant role in child rearing were more common in households where women had a secondary school or university education. Presumably the presence of a grandparent permitted these women to continue an education or assume work responsibilities that might have been precluded if they bore the major share of child care. Among urban households in which the woman had completed only elementary school or vocational training, relatives rarely played a role in child rearing (in less than 5 percent of those households surveyed, according to a 1970s report). In agricultural regions, where women often worked at home on family garden plots or worked only seasonally, the role of the extended family has been even more limited.

Another factor encouraging extended family households has been Czechoslovakia's endemic housing shortage. Although the government's pronatalist policies favored married couples (especially those with children) in housing allocation, many young families (perhaps one-third) waited up to five years for their first separate apartment. Most of these families shared an apartment with a mother or mother-in-law. Divorced couples sometimes continued living together simply for want of other housing alternatives. For the elderly, who were expected to trade their apartments for smaller ones as spouses died and children left home, the situation was often difficult.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the number of marriages in Czechoslovakia declined while the number of divorces increased. Although marriages began to increase in 1982, the rate of divorce continued to climb; it rose from 14 percent in 1970 to 32 percent in 1985.

Data as of August 1987