The Irish family – different or not?
in Are the Irish different?
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In considering whether the Irish family is different or not, it is useful to consider the meanings of difference separately and offer thoughts on how they apply to the Irish family system, both now and as evolved over time. While looking at the real difference, patterns of family life in Ireland since the pre-Famine period can be interpreted as having veered into and out of conformity with broad European trends, sometimes diverging but then swerving back into convergence. The analysis of Irish family patterns from the perspective of real difference is complex enough, but it is simpler than trying to pin down perceptions of difference and assess what role they play in shaping identity. The family patterns associated with the small farm system thus lost their economic base at the same time as the cultural tide was turning against the austere, patriarchal traditions that had characterised rural family behaviour.

Editor: Tom Inglis

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