The is the most common household unit in Austria. Families tend to be small, usually consisting of the parents and one or two children. Rural families are typically larger, with two to four children. Those in rural areas tend to live near the extended family, and will often rely on their family network to help raise children. For example, grandmothers will care for their grandchildren while the parents work. In urban areas, extended families tend not to reside together, largely due to limited space in housing and the wide availability of childcare options.
When young adults begin their tertiary education or employment, they usually leave their parents’ home to live in their own apartment or with friends. However, due to the competitive housing situation in Austria, many young adults may not leave their family's home until they finish university or will move back in after graduation.
Regardless of where one resides, adult children are expected to keep in touch with their parents and care for them when they age. Traditionally, elderly would live with their children until they passed away. However, it is becoming more common for elderly Austrians to live in retirement homes. When people die, they are usually buried in a family burial site, near where their families have lived.
Gender Roles and Child Rearing
Traditionally, men were the head of the household. This is still the case in older and rural families. However, among urban and younger couples, the husband and wife are becoming more equal in their roles in the family. Both parents, especially those in urban areas, tend to engage in paid labour. Women tend to be responsible for household chores and caring for the children. However, men are becoming more involved in maintaining the household.
Government assistance towards parents with young children has made a significant contribution to gender equality in the country. When having a child, a woman is entitled to eight weeks leave before the childbirth, followed by another eight to 12 weeks afterwards. Maternity leave is typically followed by ‘Karenz', parental leave of at least two months. This type of leave can be extended until the child's second birthday and can be split between the mother and father. Daycare facilities also enable women to re-enter the workforce after having children, although it is common for mothers to return as part-time workers.
Dating and Marriage
Many Austrians begin dating when they are in their mid to late teens. Dates usually include meeting in a public place to converse with one another, such as a cafe, a movie theatre, a concert or simply a walk together. Typically on a date, the woman and man will cover their own expenses. One will usually offer to pay for the other on special occasions such as a birthday. Most Austrians expect to marry one day; however, there is very little social pressure for couples to marry. The age of first marriage has increased. In rural areas, people typically marry when they are in their mid to late 20s, while those in urban areas marry in their late 20s to early 30s.
Love tends to be the primary reason for marriage. A civil ceremony is required for the marriage to be legal, yet some couples will also have a church wedding. The civil ceremony tends to be quite small; the only guests are usually the couple’s family and witnesses. Religious ceremonies are a much larger affair and involve various traditions. Some couples choose to cohabit before or instead of marriage and same-sex couples can register for a civil partnership. Divorce has become more common in Austria, and there is little social stigma attached to getting a separation.
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