Family System, Burmese

   In contrast to the family and kinship systems of neighboring China and India, the predominant family system in Burma is nuclear rather than extended, with two or three generations living together in one household (parents, dependent children, sometimes one or more grandparents), and is bilateral rather than patrilineal, meaning that descent is through both the maternal and paternal lines. Many observers have noted that Burmese family life has more in common with that found in Europe and America rather than in other parts of Asia.
   A major consequence of this is that women enjoy considerable freedom in relation to their husbands and in-laws, although they must show them deference (the husband is traditionally referred to as ein oo nat, the "guardian spirit of the house"). Ideally, a newly married couple will live on their own, but they may live with either the husband's or the wife's parents if it is convenient or economical-there is no strong expectation, as in China, that they remain part of the paternal household. Although the family is nuclear in structure, ties with aunts, uncles, cousins, and other more distant kin are usually strong because of the need for mutual aid, which is as important in a big city like Rangoon (Yangon) as it is in a small village. Wealthy people are expected to assist their poorer relations; for example, they may employ young female relatives as servants and arrange suitable marriages for them. For most Burmese in the early 21st century, the family system provides psychological and material support in what is often a harsh and unforgiving environment, where social services are practically nonexistent.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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