Croatians place a high value on family and it is the basis of the country’s social structure. Traditionally, the Croatian household was comprised of the grandparents, parents and two or more children. While it is not rare to find a household of this makeup today, it is becoming increasingly common for nuclear families to have their own home. Often, adult children live with their parents until they are married or can financially support themselves. This generally depends on where one lives in Croatia. Some children will temporarily move out for their education and will return to the family home after completing their studies. There is also an increasing number of other types of households emerging in contemporary society, including those of single adults and childless couples. Regardless of where one lives, Croatians try to maintain strong ties with their family.
Honour and Sacrifice
Honour is an important principle in Croatian culture and is closely related with family values. Making personal sacrifices to benefit one’s family is highly regarded. One example is the large value placed on spending time with family members, with the common perception being that weekends are to be reserved for ‘family time’ and business is expected to not interfere with family affairs. Another example is the reverence afforded to the elders of a family or community. Among Croatians, there is a general expectation that the elderly receive a high level of respect and are taken care of by their family members. The oldest in the family are often seen as a knowledgeable source of information on culture, traditions and history and thus should be honoured. Children are expected to consult their parents on life choices that may affect the economic status of the family, such as education.
Traditionally, Croatia was asociety. This translated into a household in which the oldest (such as the father or grandfather) had the dominant role in the family. However, during communist rule over Croatia, women were encouraged to join the workforce. This has left a legacy of women experiencing a fairly equal status with men in terms of labour. Expectations for women to fulfil more traditional gender-stereotypical roles such as cooking, cleaning and child-rearing persist alongside other commitments such as pursuing higher education or partaking in paid labour. Nonetheless, many men share some of the household duties and are active in the child-rearing process. Moreover, when it comes to decision-making, both the wife and husband will deliberate together.
Dating and Marriage
The older generation of Croatians tend to hold the conservative belief that one should be married before starting a family. Moreover, it is relatively rare for children to be born out of wedlock. If a female becomes pregnant prior to marriage, it is expected that she will get married before the child’s birth. It is common for the male to ask the father of the bride if he can marry his daughter. This is in order to show proper respect to her family. In rural areas, it is more common for people to marry at a younger age, roughly in their early twenties. Those from urban areas will often marry in their late twenties to early thirties.
As a sign of the renewed interest in Catholic traditions since independence, it has become increasingly popular to hold a religious or church wedding before the civil ceremony. In terms of marriage and sexuality, 65% of the voting population voted in favour of a 2013 referendum to change the definition of marriage in the constitution to apply exclusively to a man and a woman. This reflects the conservative attitudes towards sexuality some Croatians hold. However, many of these traditional beliefs and approaches to marriage are changing among the younger generation of Croatians, who tend to hold more liberal views.