Volume 3 - Article 13

Kinship, family and social network: The anthropological embedment of fertility change in Southern Europe

By Giuseppe A. Micheli

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Date received:11 Apr 2000
Date published:19 Dec 2000
Word count:6723
Keywords:anthropological demography, family patterns, fertility change, Mediterranean Europe, social networks


There is considerable overlap between Le Play’s mid-eighteenth-century household model map and the regional TFR map of central-southern Europe in the 1980s. The author examines the overall structure of relationships involved in Le Play’s typology and observes that both the stem-family and the unstable family area in the Southern Europe are marked by a small, close-knit network of strong ties, with kinship predominance. Vice versa, the social support hinges upon a network of kin in the stem-family area, upon an alliance among different kindred units in the unstable Mediterranean area.
All this leads to formulating a hypothesis of a tri-partite model for Western European relationship models. How can we explain the relationship between family predominance as anthropological embedding and family collapse as demographic reaction? The author reconsiders this question in the light of Festinger’s cognitive dissonance theory and Elder’s ‘principle of accentuation’: different, regionally rooted, family and kinship patterns "react" in contact with an appropriate reagent, such as the macro-process of modernisation, generating different patterns of today’s demographic behaviour.

Author's Affiliation

Giuseppe A. Micheli - Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca (UNIMIB), Italy [Email]

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