35. What is the role of the family in Arab culture?
The variety of family types among Arab Americans is vast, and influenced by the same factors mentioned in the answer to Question 33. Generally, family is more important than the individual and more influential than nationality. People draw much of their identity from their role in the family. Historically, this has fostered immigration in which members of an extended family or clan help one another immigrate.

36. Do Arab Americans maintain ties with their home countries?
Many do. They are very proud of their home countries and may maintain regular contact with relatives or friends there, as many Americans do. Arab Americans will sometimes joke with one another over which of their home countries is the best, but it is perfectly consistent to have loyalties both to their place of origin and their country of citizenship.

37. What are gender roles like for Arab Americans?
These vary tremendously. Some of the variables are country of origin, whether the family came from a rural or urban area and how long the person's family has been in the United States. It is more accurate to ask the subject of the story about his or her own experience than to apply a stereotype.

38. Do Arab Americans have large families?
Arab-American families are, on average, larger than non-Arab-American families and smaller than families in Arab countries. Traditionally, more children meant more pride and economic contributors for the family. The cost of having large families in the United States, however, and adaptation to American customs seem to encourage smaller families.

39. What kind of relationship does cousin mean to Arab Americans?
The same as for other Americans, though Arabs may differentiate between maternal and paternal cousins when they refer to them.

40. Do generations of Arab Americans live together?
Sometimes, especially with people who have more recently arrived in the United States, but this can be true of non-Arabs as well and is not a distinguishing characteristic of Arab Americans.

41. Do Arab Americans typically get married at a younger age than non-Arabs?
Yes, though this is changing. As women follow careers, they are not expected to marry so young. Arab women might also marry older men who can provide greater financial security.

42. Are marriages arranged?
This is very rare, except among the most recent immigrants. Remember that most Arab Americans were born here, and that they frequently marry people from other cultures. In the case where a marriage is arranged, a parent may recommend someone from another family or from the country of origin, but the child is not forced to marry that person. More typically, couples meet and ask their families' approval before getting engaged, or make their own decision and then tell their families.

43. Do Arab Americans prefer to marry each other?
As with many people, in-group marriage may be encouraged as a way to preserve heritage, but Arabs and non-Arabs frequently marry one other. Religious differences among Arab Americans, in fact, may make it more desirable to marry a non-Arab of similar religious background than an Arab of a different religion.

44. Are there any Arab conventions for naming children?
Muslims often name their children after prophets in the Quran. ShiÕa Muslims sometimes use Ali as a middle name. Christians often name their children after people in the Bible. Although names can give an indication of a person's religion, don't assume. Arab tradition may call for the father's name to be the middle name of sons and daughters.

45. What does the title Umm or Abu mean as part of a name?
It is a common way of calling someone using their oldest son's name. Umm means mother of. Abu means father of. "Umm Muhammad" is "mother of Muhammad." This is what friends might call her, as a sign of respect.

46. What do Arabs mean when they refer to someone as Auntie?
It is a sign of respect, not necessarily family relationship. An Arab American might call any older Arab male or female "auntie" or "uncle." Many Arab Americans do not use these terms at all. Journalists can show respect by using courtesy titles.


Contents :: Overview :: Origins :: Language :: Demographics :: Family :: Customs

Religion :: Politics :: Terminology :: Stereotypes :: Coverage :: Resources :: Credits


Content copyright 2001 Detroit Free Press. All rights reserved.

Under Attack !


 Search this site
Home - English Contact Us BJ Guide Op-Ed Articles Bint Jbeil E-mail News & Polls Home -  Arabic