Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Research on the Arab family - Khaleej Times
Dr Suweid's paper dealt with problems faced by families and the impact of changes around the world, particularly globalisation, which virtually dictates western culture and way of life to Arab societies.
Virtually dictates? How so? And by whom? Because of the presence of the temptations? Because of the pressure children influenced by TV and movies place on parents? Playing the victim doesn't solve problems. Problems are solved when you take responsibility for your actions.
Families which employ maids at home are more likely to have weak relationship with their children, besides facing the threat of not having a sense of belonging within the family, reveals a research paper....With childrens' dependence on maids come problems like influence of other culture and languages, and parental neglect, he said.
My impression from casual observation is that most UAE families have maids. The UAE market for maids is an international one, with the wage determined by the perfectly elastic supply of maids from the Philippines, etc. And maids do play a major role in child care and supervising children when both parents are out of the home.

Probably there are families that utilize maids responsibly and others do not. And those that do not most likely would be poorly managed families even without the injection of a maid. I suspect families in the West would utilize maids just as frequently if they were as inexpensive as they are in the UAE. And results would be the same.
He also highlighted the reasons for juvenile delinquency, divorce, changes in marriage patterns with most youth delaying their marriages or getting married to foreigners, which had led to increasing number of spinsters in Arab society. A new trend observed among youth was their reluctance to marry educated women, he said, adding the other issue was the tendency of families to overspend. He also spoke about the psychological problems in families which result from differences between spouses in views and thinking.

I suspect by "Arab society" this means Gulf Arab society. It is the rich Gulf countries where taking a foreign bride has become increasingly prevalent.

When I speak to females studying for a college degree about marriage they tell me four things:

(1) Possessing a college degree enhances their marriage chances. While UAE men do often take foreign brides that does not mean UAE men prefer less educated UAE women to better educated UAE women.

(2) Attending university does allow them to delay marriage until she is ready (which is after her parents are ready and anxious for her to marry).

(3) A college degree gains them some degree of freedom they would not otherwise possess.

(4) They do hope to marry, but a college degree is key to an exit strategy from the marriage if it goes bad.

Surprised that an economist is interested in such things? Don't be -- economics is about how people make decisions and how they interact. Economists are people who enjoy thinking about people and how they organize themselves. So our interests go well beyond business. Or -- to say the same thing from the opposite perspective: marriage, my students say, is business.

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