Family and Gender Roles

Family and religion are central to Greek values and behaviour and mutually reinforce each other’s importance. The Orthodox Church advocates the traditional patriarchal family and this is specified in the marriage ceremony. In this ceremony the wife accepts the husband as head of the family.

Traditional Roles

In the traditional family structure, the husband/father is the main authority figure and source of discipline. The wife/mother is the focus of the home. The term nikokira refers to female family members, especially to the wife and mother who, traditionally, takes responsibility for the housework and child-rearing. The husband and father, or nikokiris, is expected to financially provide for the family and to contribute to its progress.

Second Generation Greek Australians

For many second generation Greek Australians gender roles are less sharply drawn, especially in ‘mixed’ marriages. However, women have continued to be the primary care givers in the home for their elderly relatives and in-laws.

Family Honour

It is important for you to be aware of familiar roles and how authority is distributed. It is also important to know that family honour is very important to older Greek Australians. All family members are expected to contribute to it and have an obligation to sustain it.

Extended Family

While the immediate family is important, so too is the extended family. Individuals have strong ties to grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, as well as to others who are connected to the family, such as godparents (referred to as koumpari). Family obligations include participation in family celebrations and religious occasions, as well as caring for the sick and elderly.

Traditionally, ageing parents continued to live in the family home cared for by family members. The strong sense of duty to parents is even stronger in the children of first generation immigrants, recognising as they do the tremendous sacrifices made by their parents as migrants in a new country

For more detailed advice and information about how Greek culture and beliefs affect the service situation go to Strategies for Culturally Appropriate Services, and especially Issues and Attitudes: Checklist for Service Providers.

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