Lebanon’s Family Structure and Marriage

Lebanon’s Family Structure and Marriage

Lebanon’s Family Structure and Marriage


Family structure and marriage is among the key aspects that constitutes the foundation of a country. Thus like many other  countries Lebanon also has its own way in which the citizens establishes the family structure and marriage. However, in the recent past the Lebanese society was undoubtedly riddled with deep social, political, economic, and sectarian divisions that have also greatly influenced the family structure and marriages among them (Jabbra 2011, 260). Moreover, an individual Lebanese is primarily identified with his or her family as their key object of loyalty as well as the basis of marriage, social relationships and the confessional system. Alternatively this tends to clash with at times clash with the national integration as well as cohesion since these familial lineages are often used as means to ascend to power. Therefore as a result of the differences among various families the society tends to be divided into diverse sectarian communities as well as a variety of socioeconomic strata cutting across the society’s confessional lines (Collelo 1987, 78-9).

The Family

A family set up and structure usually manifests itself in every aspect of Lebanese people lives as well as in the financial,  political, and personal relationships. For instance, in the political sphere, mostly families end up competing with each purposely for  power and prestige, therefore the  kinsmen from the families combine forces in order to support their family members in attempts of acquiring leadership (Ralland 2003, 18). Moreover, in the business, most of the employers tend to prefer hiring their relatives, brothers as well as cousins thereby frequently consolidating their resources in the operations of the family enterprise. In addition the wealthy or well up family members are in most times expected to extend their generosity by sharing with their less fortunate relatives, however, this responsibility commonly befalls the urban and expatriate relatives who largely contributes towards helping in the  support of their village kin (Jabbra 2011, 260).

Apparently in the personal sphere, there  is a very great role which the family structure plays. For instance, the family status to a great extent is mainly responsible of determiningwhether an individual will have accessibility to education as well as the  chances of attaining prominence and wealth (Tlaiss and Kauser 2011, 10). Moreover, a family is also involved in seeking to ensure that members conforms with the acceptable behavior standards with an aim of maintaining the family honor. Therefore the ambitions of an individual are usually molded and shaped by the family with respect to the family’s long-term interests as a whole (Collelo 1987, 90). Additionally just as the family is responsible of giving opportunity, protection, and  support to its members, members are however required to offerservice and loyalty to the family.

Furthermore, the traditional structure of the family in Lebanon is actually a three-generation extended family that is patrilineal, mostly consisting ofthe man and his wife or in case of polygamy wives, the children of both sexes who are unmarried, their sons who are married together with the wives and children of these sons. Alternatively a number of these families used to live together under one roof as one household during earlier generations even though nowadays this do not often occur (Ralland 2003, 120).

Additionally the family usually commands a key loyalty among the people of  Lebanon. Thus in a variety of studies family has always topped the list of loyalties of the people of Lebanon among all the groups followed by religion, citizenship or nationality, ethnic group, and the political party in the order of importance (Collelo 1987, 178). Moreover, the family in most cases has been the way through which political leadership is perpetuated and distributed in Lebanon. Thus due to the family set up and the perceptions of the Lebanese a commendable number of seats are usually inherited. This is mainly because the “political families” have contributed to the monopolization of the some sects representation over a very long period of time and it has been argued in some quarters that this issue of family loyalty in Lebanon family structure to some extent contributes to the hindering of the development in the modern polity (Jabbra 2011, 262).

Gender Roles

However, a family in Lebanon, as it is a usual thing elsewhere within the Middle East region is greatly involved in assigning different roles to members of the family members mainly based on their gender. Moreover, the men’s superior status in  the society as well as within the confines of the nuclear families perpetuates the barriers of ethnicity or sect (Tlaiss and Kauser 2011, 20). it is also undoubtedly evident  that the family structure in Lebanon is a patriarchal one. Moreover, the centrality of the figure of the father within the family is mainly because a family is usually perceived as an economic unit whereby the father is the producer and property owner on whom other members of the family should depend on. Additionally this notion is also held even in the Lebanon’s rural regions where women are mostly engaged in peasant work (Collelo 1987, 210).

Although the women’s status as inferior is undoubtedly legitimized in some Islamic religious texts there has also been the oppression of the Lebanon women whose their key role had been initially restricted to those of only  a homemaker and mother. Alternatively nowadays  the women in Lebanon are also involved in a variety of socially active roles as well as in the workforce. In addition notwithstanding the traditional attitudes persistence towards the women’s role, Lebanese women have for a long time enjoyed equal civil rights as well as the attending of the  higher education institutions in large numbers (Ralland 2003, 186).


In the past, the marriages in Lebanon was supposed to be within the lineage and more preferably to the first cousins as well as other paternal kin who were close. This was mainly aimed at providing the woman with the security, because she was supposed to live among the people and environment in which she was brought up as well as tending to keep the inherited property within the same family. However, in Lebanon such marriages are not uncommon even though explicitly despised by some sects.

However, even though polygamy is permitted under Muslim law it is generally considered  as both impractical as well as undesirable in Lebanon mainly because of the additional financial constraints and burden it brings and the entailing personal complications (Tlaiss and Kauser 2011, 18). However, some of the families are polygamous consisting of the  man and his wives and children but in Lebanon such marriages rarely exceed two wives who may be living together with their children in different rooms but under the same roof or residing in separate abodes (Ralland 2003, 120).

Other than the marriage of close relatives, such as first cousins, a factor that often enters into the choice of a marriage partner is interest in expanding family resources. A man from the leading family of a particular lineage, especially an influential and wealthy lineage, is apt to choose a wife from another such lineage within his own religious community to improve the position of his immediate family group (Collelo 1987, 203).

However, the age which Lebanese marries varies. This is mainly because in certain villages girls will likely marry while they are in their late teens; whereas the boys in their marry in their early twenties. Alternatively the urban youths somewhat marry at a later age. Furthermore among the families that are educated young men tend to often postpone marriage a bit longer up to their late thirties or even their early forties (Jabbra 2011, 263).

The Muslims in  Lebanon usually enters into a formal marriage contract  whereas Christians and Druzes don’t.  Thus among the Muslims after the engagement is announced the Muslim couple ensure a formal marriage contract is drawn up  before the wedding can take place (Jabbra 2011, 263). The marriage is therefore legal only after the formal marriage contract is signed. This is due  to the fact  that ii is this contract which notes the couple’s consent to marry as well as specifying the bride-price to be paid.

Premarital as well as extramarital sexual relations among the Lebanese are strongly frowned upon in the entire society. Thus strong sanctions are usually imposed among those in such sexual relationships hence  they rarely occur in Lebanon  mainly because all the potential female partners are usually enmeshed in an extensive kinshipties network thereby reinforcing these sanctions. However, an improper conduct by a girl who is unmarried amounts to the damage of her lineagehonor and it results to greater complications within the family (Collelo 1987, 224).

Child-Rearing Practices

The key reason for marrying among the Lebanese is procreation. Thus a wife without children, as well as those without male children are often despised within the society hence are object of sympathy. Moreover, a greater importance is usually placed on bearing sons a phenomenon which is usually reflected in those who attend the festivities upon birth. However, at every child’s birth  the father usually gives a feast but whenever the child is a boy the festivities are more lavish as well as involving numerous guests. Thereby it is in most times clarified that within the family the children who are male are given preference and more special privileges in comparison to the female children (Ralland 2003, 126). Moreover, severe discipline of the children is imposed mostly by the father. Furthermore, some major decisions involving the child rearing decisions are also made within the marriages by both parents such as the ones involving the son’s marriage. Arranged marriages are also practiced In Lebanon widely across thesectarianand socioeconomic spectrum (Tlaiss and Kauser 2011, 30).


The family structure and marriage in Lebanon are usually governed by the Islamic rule mainly because most of the population is Muslims. However, the family structure tends to be patriarchal whereby the man is perceived as the provider and property owner. Alternatively the women are also granted there civil rights and freedom of education (Jabbra 2011, 265). Many marriages , involves the signing of the formal marriage contracts whereas premarital and extramarital sexual relations are strongly despised among the Lebanese society. Finally, the child-rearing practice is regarded the role of both the man and woman (Tlaiss and Kauser 2011, 32).

Reference List

Collelo, Thomas. ed. Lebanon: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.

Jabbra, Nancy W.  “Family Change in Lebanon’s Biqa Valley: What were the Results of the Civil War?.” Journal of Comparative Family Studies, vol.35, no. 2 (2004): 259-270. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed June 10, 2011).

Ralland, John C. ed. Lebanon: current issues and background. New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2003.

Tlaiss, Hayfaa and Saleema Kauser. “The impact of gender, family, and work on the career advancement of Lebanese women managers”, Gender in Management: An International Journal, vol. 26, no. 1 (2011): 8 – 36.


Written by