AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 86

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Session 86: The Contemporary Mongolian Family - Sponsored by American Center for Mongolian Studies (ACMS)

Organizer: Sarah J. Munson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Chair: Nancy A. Nix, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA

Discussants: Sarah J. Munson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA; Nancy A. Nix, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA

Over the past 20 years Mongolia has experienced radical changes in its government, societal structure, demographics, health, and education sectors. Most affected by these changes is the Mongolian family. The holistic examination of the contemporary Mongolian family sheds light on how public policies and societal changes influence the definition of family as well as helps researchers to better understand the power that the family unit has in economic and social terms. The presenters of this panel examine the Mongolian family from different fields, motives, and backgrounds but all with a focus on the day to day lives of today’s Mongolians. Bumochir Dulam compares the differing levels of respect given to visitors by Deed Mongols and the reasons for these differences. Sarah Munson looks at what is known about domestic adoption practices and presents reasons for more attention on the topic, and Nancy Nix identifies self and home-care practices for maintaining and improving health, including home remedies and familial health advice when treating illness. The panel will examine the three themes of demographic change, family structure and formation, and behavioral change, that run through all of the presenters work. By following these themes the presenters demonstrate the complex and varied experiences of Mongolian families and their place and power in society.

Respect and Distance in the Contemporary Deed Mongol Family
Bumochir Dulam, Independent Scholar, Mongolia

The issues of distance and respect between family and guests among Deed Mongols in Qinghai, northwestern China, can be illustrated by the Mongolian felt tent (ger). Ordering or placement inside a ger affects not only furniture and belongings but also how people live in it. The seating order of people inside the ger shows how everyone fits into the social order hierarchically speaking. The order does not only apply to family members but also to non-family members or guests visiting the family. By comparing family member and guest seating arrangements we explore the importance of residence and distance in relation to level of respect. Distance can be understood in the sense of repetition, availability, and accessibility. Everything that is infrequent or not always available or accessible is regarded as rare. In turn high levels of respect are given to things that have a rare quality whereas everything that is common or of normal quality is considered to be less worthy of respect. Deed Mongols tend to respect guests from afar more than local guests due to this reasoning. Guests and the respect they are given when visiting a Deed Mongol family is in direct relation to the distance (both familial and geographic) between themselves and the nuclear family. These differing levels of respect are a crucial way to understand family and guest relations in the Deed Mongol family.

Total Fertility Rates on the Mongolian Steppe: Levels and Trends 1996-2005
Megan E. Wagler, , Canada

Since the 1950s the national total fertility rate (TFR) in Mongolia has been in a decline, instigated by Soviet policies and practices. This paper investigates recent changes in TFR in the rural population using the own-children method, and, based on a review of determinants of fertility in this population, hypothesizes about future rates. We determined TFR for rural Mongolia from 1996-2005 using data from a rural household survey conducted in twelve counties. Our findings indicate that TFR in rural Mongolia has continued to decline, though at a slower rate than in urban settings. The decrease has been attributed to the legalization and increased availability of abortion and contraception. In future years, however, the continuing decline in the quality of health and education services, the loss of government-sponsored services available for rural inhabitants, and increased labour needs could result in an increased fertility rate in rural areas.

Development and Patterns of State Policy Towards Mongolian Families
Uvsh Purev, Indiana University, USA

Family studies is an integral part of the social sciences. In family studies the main issues around family development include origins of family as an entity, family values and perceptions, categorization, income patterns, psychology, new trends in family relations, and the preparation of youth for their own families. For Mongolian families the past couple of decades brought several challenges and changes. Economic forces such as price increases, higher tax burden, and unemployment have resulted in difficulties for Mongolian families. Behavioral issues including alcoholism and increases in crime and corruption as well as demographic changes like mass immigration and urbanization present serious problems for family life. Furthermore there have been several changes in family patterns particularly in the aspects of marriage and divorce bringing positive and negative influence on family members. Inevitably these issues and changes have brought new challenges to the Mongolian government. Upon this background, I will examine the development of and changes in Mongolian families from a comparative perspective based on findings from other countries’ family studies. In doing this I focus on economic, behavioral, and demographic factors affecting Mongolian family development and patterns in marriage and divorce. To reflect the emerging reality of mass immigration, I look at family trends and patterns among Mongolian families living abroad.  Based on my findings, this presentation explains and scrutinizes Mongolia’s state policy towards families in terms of seven major categories and proposes specific steps to improve state policy towards families.

Health Priorities and Home-Care Practices in a Peri-Urban Area of the Capital of Mongolia
Nancy A. Nix, University of Alaska, Anchorage, USA

A multitude of health issues, both infectious and chronic, are encountered in Mongolia today. For health professionals to improve healthcare and services, it is important to understand the health priorities, beliefs,\ and home-care practices within the communities. In June 2010, focus group discussions and a participatory approach were conducted in a peri-urban area of Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. Seventy-six community residents participated; 24 (32%) men and 52 (68%) women, ranging in ages from 20 to 68 years of age. Each group generated lists of seventeen or more of their community health concerns. The majority were chronic diseases. The top four health priorities were identified: cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and bone disease (osteoporosis). Health beliefs and practices to control and prevent these major health issues were described and discussed. Findings consisted of seeking medical care, screening and modern medications; going to a shaman or Buddhist monk; use of traditional medicine; and home remedies. Many home remedies practiced are from the herding lifestyle; examples include use of livestock milk, urine, and fat. Additionally, health advice is often sought from extended family and community members, whether current medical practices, traditional medicine, home remedies, or hearsay. The implication of this is that multiple care-seeking approaches are used in the community. Though Mongolian households tend to be nuclear families, close extended family connections exist. Care for family members is inevitable. The promotion of the most effective and accessible disease control and prevention methods need to be emphasized in communities and households.

Domestic Adoption in Mongolia: Present Knowledge and Needs
Sarah J. Munson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA

Domestic adoption in Mongolia is an under researched but important field from which we can gain a better understanding of Mongolian beliefs regarding the role of parenting in a relationship or marriage, the expectations of children and how they are valued, the importance placed on heredity, and how the Mongolian government supports orphaned or abandoned children. Past research on fertility rates and birth control have overlooked the option of giving children up for adoption in situations when children are undesired. Additionally the practice of informal adoption, or adoption outside of the orphanage system, is commonly practiced but its procedures and impact have gone unexamined. The available literature regarding domestic adoption practices of Khalkha Mongols is examined and critiqued. The need for in-depth research on formal and informal domestic adoption as well as on attitudes regarding adoption is demonstrated. Future research on Mongolian domestic adoption practices will lead to a more informed governmental and social welfare system. It will also allow for a better understanding of how marriage is defined by the presence of children, how changing fertility rates are affecting the number of available and desirable adoptable children in Mongolia, and how the needs of adoptive and biological parents as well as adopted children are being met.