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The Role of Godparents : On the Integration of a Non-Familial Role in the Structure of the Kinship System

LIEVEN A. VANDEKERCKHOVE
Journal of Comparative Family Studies
Vol. 12, No. 1, THE CHILD AND THE FAMILY (WINTER 1981), pp. 139-149
Published by: Dr. George Kurian
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41601223
Page Count: 11
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The Role of Godparents : On the Integration of a Non-Familial Role in the Structure of the Kinship System
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Abstract

The question raised in this paper is how the continued existence of the institution of godparenthood can be explained while its original functional link with the surrounding social structure in which it originated has been lost. Godparenthood does have a functional significance even though its supporting social structure has been transferred from the ecclesiastical to the familial social system. On examination of the social norms by which the allocation of the godparent role is regulated, it becomes clear that godparenthood functions as a channel of expressive-symbolic communication for the members of a family of orientation after the children have formed their own families of procreation. The question is then raised whether this does not oppose the progressive contraction of the family which Durkheim and subsequently many other sociologists hypothesized. La quéstionne posait par cet éxposé est comment expliquer l'existence perpétuel de l'institution du parrain et de la marraine quand le lien original et fonctionnel avec la structure sociale que l'entour, dans laquelle l'institution a ses origines, est perdu. L'institution du parrain et de la marraine a une signification fontionnelle même si sa structure sociale qui la tien a transféré de la système ecclésiastique à la système sociale de la famille. En examinant les normes sociales sur lesquelles l'allocation du rôle du parrain et de la marraine s'est réglé, ca devienne évident que l'institution du parrain et de la marraine joue le role d'un moyen de communication expressif et symbolique pour les membres d'une famille "d'orientation" apres les enfants ont formé leurs famillies de procréation. La questionne qu'on pose est si ce ne s'oppose pas a la contradiciton progressive de la famille auquelle Durkheim, et a la suite des autres sociologues, ont fait leur hypothèse. La pregunta suscitada en este papel es como la existencia contínua de la institución del padrinaje puede ser explicada en su función original mientras que la estructura social que une el medio ambiente en el cual se originó se ha perdido. El pardrinaje tiene una función importante aunque el apoyo de su estructura social ha sido transferido del sistema eclesiástico al sistema social familiar. Examinando las normas sociales por las cuales la asignación del papel del padrino es regulado, es evidente que el padrinaje funciona como un canal expersivo de comunicación simbolica por los miembros de una familia de orientación después de que los niños han procreado sus propias familias. Entonces la pregunta pue se suscita es si la actitud anterior se opone a la progresiva contracción de la familia, la cual Durkheim, y subsequentemente muchos otros sociólogos hipotesaron.

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