Joint Family Household

Joint family household is a specific way of life with an extended family, which can be found in all the Slavic groups, particularly in the South Slavs. This way of life was preserved longest in the regions remaining under the Ottoman rule – in Bulgaria (by the 19th century), Bosnia  and Serbia (by the early 20thcentury). It is rural community based upon blood relations among the male family members, consisting of several generations of one or more families. Most often there were about 30 members, but also there were households with up to 60 members. The estate was a joint one and was not divided, all the household members work together, spending and consuming the common goods. Personal items boiled down to clothes. A joint household consisted of several houses – a big one and several smaller ones around it, where younger married couples lived. Married girls would leave her father’s joint household to move to her husband’s one. All the major issues were resolved jointly, in a democratic way – at an assemble, a gathering. Such a household would be managed by an elder, usually an older man, who was elected but could also be discharged. Development of monetary trade and emergence of individualism, then each person’s aspiration to focus on his/her needs, made such joint households obsolete.


The names of places and villages now still keep the memory of such communities in their endings in –ivci, -еvci, -inci, -ci, -аnе, -еnе, i.e. a sign of belonging to a family line.


A tribal or clan social structure was maintained for a long time in Montenegro and Herzegovina, where several brotherhoods made a clan. Although a family is the basic social unit today, people still maintain the concept of solidarity among the members of a brotherhood or a clan. Kuči, Pipеri, Drоbnjаci, Моrаčе, Bјеlоpаvlići, Vаsојеvići, Тrеbјеšаni – are just some of the Serbian clans existing in the olden days in Montenegro, Brdo and Herzegovina.


The term joint family household (zadruga, a co-op) first appears in Vuk’s Dictionary. Until then, the terms in use were co-op housethe big housestrong househousehold company, large family, brotherhood, brothers, …