In Saudi Arabia, “the family is the single most important unit of…society.” (Saudi-American Forum)

Family Structure

The structure of Saudi families are traditionally patriarchal, with the male being the head of the household and in charge of duties that are usually found outside the household such as protecting and providing for his family. Family identity is also tied to the father and he, therefore, has custody of the children should the question arise. Men can have as many as four wives, but polygamy is no longer widely practiced. If wealthier men do have more than one wife, the wives and their children tend to live in separate units from each other.

Role of Women

Women are taught to participate in roles that affect life inside the household such as managing the house, taking care of the children, and some decisions regarding the children’s upbringing. They are not restricted to these roles, as is demonstrated by the increasing number of successful business women. In Saudi Arabia, “the role of women [is] basic to maintaining the structure of the family and therefore of society” (Country Studies). This is due in large part to the fact that women are controlled more by men, keeping their chastity, and therefore their family honor, in check, which, in turn, makes the family’s bonds and society stronger.


Marriage also serves in creating alliances with other families and it remains a significant turning point in many Saudi Arabian’s lives. Although there are some exceptions, the vast majority of marriages are arranged. A Saudi marriage is more of a civil contract, and the wedding itself is known as an “Islamic Civil Ceremony” (Family Life). Men pay dowries for brides that are usually in the form of Saudi money or mehr. It is common for men to pay anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 mehr (Cultural Homogeneity and Values).

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