Lebanese Culture

Family

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The hierarchy and values differ between traditional families in Lebanon and the families that have lived in cities (or internationally) for many years. However, family cohesion and solidarity is considered to be fundamentally important to the Lebanese regardless of their family configuration.

In collectivist cultures such as Lebanon, the family is seen as the basic unit of society – a unified singularity. The family individuals belong to can define their reputation, status and honour. The act of an individual can impact the perception of the entire family by others.The interests of the family are expected to supersede those of the individual and loyalty (such as preferential treatment) is shown to fellow family members. Wealthy individuals are expected to financially assist less fortunate family members by providing job opportunities or sharing assets.

Because there is a significant emphasis on family honour in Lebanon, people often operate with the protection of their family reputation in mind. Therefore, when confronted by criticism of their family, people may react by interpreting the facts in such a way as to prevent the discrediting of their family.

In traditional Arab society, children typically live in their parents’ house until they are married or ready to have children of their own. Therefore, parental control extends beyond the age of 18 (the typical Western age of independence) and continues to influence a person’s decision-making well into adulthood. Women from very conservative families may come under the disciplinary control of their in-laws when they marry; however, this depends on religion and class. The dynamic of parental discipline classically entails strict reprimand and correction by the father and overprotection by the mother as compensation; however, this general tendency clearly varies between circumstances.

Within the household hierarchy, elders are deeply respected and deferred to. The father or oldest male is the patriarch of the family. His opinion will often prevail and in divorce proceedings of Muslim households, it is often presumed that children automatically belong to him. The mother’s role is largely to fulfil domestic duties and care for the children. Though gender roles are changing and women’s rights to education and equal pay are improving, women still do not have as much power as men. There was once a societal conception that females were more likely to bring shame on a family than men. As a result, women are still sometimes seen as particularly vulnerable targets that need to be protected. For example, a woman’s mistake or loss of control is sometimes interpreted as a failure of the patriarch of the family to protect her from doing so – however, this attitude persists mostly among  older, more conservative Lebanese people and cannot be applied generally to all households. Most well-educated families have embraced full gender equality.

Many Lebanese families in Australia still reflect traits of the Arab family dynamic. However, outside of Lebanon, there is less necessity to be protective of familial honour or adopt hierarchical roles in the household. Children tend to move out of their parents’ home at an earlier age and marry whom they please. They will often settle within close proximity of their parent’s home as family visits remain important/regular and grandparents often play a major role in raising grandchildren.

In most circumstances, Lebanese families are bigger than Australian families and closer-knit. For example, cousins often have relationships as close as siblings. Therefore, it is expected that family members care for the elderly as they grow older. If the immediate family is unable to look after the elders (due to distance or personal incapacity, etc.), it is expected their cousins or other members of the extended family will do so instead. Nursing homes and residential care facilities are viewed negatively and are rarely resorted to. An issue that arises among Lebanese families in Australia is that the younger generation, who may have grown up in Australia, are somewhat detached from these values. As a result, they do not always assist their ageing grandparents/parents as much as they are expected to. This has resulted in instances of family breakdowns or, in some cases, the return of older Lebanese people to Lebanon.

Marriage and Dating
Arranged marriages are still practised in some conservative circles to ensure a union is made between families of the same socioeconomic status and religion. However, marriages based on love are far more common. Lebanon’s struggling economy means that marriage decisions are sometimes influenced by housing and economic security factors. Financial independence is often seen as a prerequisite to marriage, and so many Lebanese men do not marry until their late 20s or early 30s. Divorces are handled by separate courts depending on whether the couple is Christian or Muslim. Some Christian families oppose divorce.
Lebanon
  • Population
    6,237,738
    [July 2016 est.]
  • Languages
    Arabic (official)
    French
    English
    Armenian
  • Religions
    Islam (54%)
    ~ Shia (27%)
    ~ Sunni (27%)
    Christianity (40.5%)
    Druze (5.6)
    Other (0.1%)
    [2012 est.]
  • Ethnicities
    Arab (95%)
    Armenian (4%)
    Other (1%)
  • Cultural Dimensions
    Power Distance 75
    Individualism 40
    Masculinity 65
    Uncertainty Avoidance 50
    Long Term Orientation 14
    Indulgence 25
    What's this?
  • Australians with Lebanese Ancestry
    230,869 [2016 census]
Lebanese in Australia
  • Population
    78,653
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Lebanon.
  • Average Age
    48
  • Gender
    Male (51.7%)
    Female (48.3%)
  • Religion
    Islam (43.9%)
    Catholic Christianity (36.6%)
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity (9.4%)
    Other (7.6%)
  • Ancestry
    Lebanese (82.5%)
    Arab (3.8%)
    Australian (2.4%)
    Other (7.5%)
  • Languages
    Arabic (89.3%)
    English (7.4%)
    Armenian (1.3%)
    Other (1.2%)
  • English Proficiency
    Well (76.8%)
    Not Well (22%)
  • Diaspora
    New South Wales (73.6%)
    Victoria (20.8%)
    South Australia (1.9%)
    Queensland (1.7%)
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (79.9%)
    2001-2006 (8.9%)
    2007-2011 (5.7%)
Where do we get our statistics?
Country LB Flag