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close this bookStrengthening the Family - Implications for International Development (UNU, 1991, 268 p.)
close this folderThe Javanese family
View the documentIntroduction to the Javanese model
View the documentEast Asian relationship to socio-economic development
View the documentAn overview of Java
View the documentConcepts of individual, family, and community
View the documentThe family arrangements
View the documentThe status of women in the javanese family
View the documentThe Javanese value of children
View the documentMarital relationships
View the documentRelationships in the family
View the documentSocial network and family support system
View the documentJavanese concept of life
View the documentTeaching manners and values
View the documentSocial implications of the javanese value system
View the documentChallenges for transition
View the documentNotes
View the documentReferences

An overview of Java

Java is the most heavily populated island in Indonesia, with 60 per cent of the population occupying only 7 per cent of the total land area (CBS 1987). As the centre of colonial activity, by 1930 Java already had experienced a long period of agricultural intensification, construction of irrigation facilities, and development of the infrastructure for colonial economic activities, making it the dominant region in Indonesia (Hugo et al. 1987).

The Javanese are the largest of Indonesia's 36 major ethnic groups. Their homelands are in the central and eastern parts of the island. The secondlargest ethnic and linguistic group, the Sundanese, occupy the western part of Java. Because the post-Independence Indonesian government has not allowed the inclusion of an ethnicity question in the census,1 the total population by ethnic groups is not available. Hugo et al. (1987) estimated Javanese dominance in Indonesia by using the language spoken in the homes in the 1980 census data, which showed that 40 per cent of the Indonesians speak Javanese at home, and 58 per cent living in Java speak this language.

Population growth, leading to conversion of agricultural land to residences, reduced both the total area of land under cultivation on Java and the size of the average farm (Booth and Sundrum 1976). At the same time, overinvestment in manufacturing drew people to seek non-agricultural, urban jobs. According to the World Bank (1988), the urban population is growing five times as fast as the rural population.

As a part of South-East Asia, Javanese culture shares several aspects with neighbouring countries, including the heritage of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. But although Islam was introduced after the arrival of Shunni Muslim merchants from Gujarat, India, in the thirteenth century, in Indonesia (notably Java), Muslims blend their religion with the Hindu and Buddhist heritage. Most Javanese Muslims adhere to Islam by confession, but do not closely practice Islamic rituals and regulations. This group is called the abangan. A smaller percentage of Javanese Muslims adhere to a rather purist form of Islam, which is called the santri (people who follow Islamic principles seriously).

The distinction between abangan and santri is made when people are classified with reference to religious behavior. A santri person is more religious than an abangan person. The term priyayi, on the other hand, cannot be regarded as a category of the same classification, since there are definitely priyayi people who are religious, and thus santri, and those who have no interest in religious affairs and, accordingly, are considered to be abangan. The term priyayi refers to social class, to the traditional legitimate elite; it refers to those who by right are considered to be different from the commoners, called ... wong cilik (little men). (Bachtiar 1973)

Cultural practices surrounding weddings, funerals, and the birth of children are influenced by the Hindu heritage. Therefore, even though the country is one of the two largest Islamic nations in the world, local traditions have made Javanese Islamic culture distinct from that of Middle Eastern Moslems.

After extensive research, Mulder (1978) concluded that mysticism is the essence of Javanese culture. In fact, mystical practices have recently gained popularity (Koentjaraningrat 1985). The rise of Javanese mysticism, as explained by Mulder (1978), is not merely a reaction against modernization, as some have implied, but is primarily an effort to search for, and to preserve, the cultural identity that dominates the Javanese quest to deal with the present.

Like the Yoruba of Nigeria, Javanese society had pre-modern characteristics commonly associated with urban development. The Yoruba lived for many centuries in towns while remaining predominantly farmers; the Javanese also developed typically urban governmental and cultural institutions while remaining rice farmers living in rural villages. Despite an agrarian economy, there are almost no isolated peasant villages in Java (Koentjaraningrat 1985).

In terms of social stratification, the Javanese distinguish between two broad social levels - the wong cilik (or common people), consisting of peasants and the urban lower classes, and the priyayi (or high-class society), comprising civil servants, intellectuals, and the aristocracy (Koentjaraningrat 1957). Javanese society is, however, relatively open and socially mobile (Koentjaraningrat 1985). Peasants may move upward, by way of education, into white-collar governmental positions. But regardless of social rank, cultural values and attitudes toward children remain fairly constant (Koentjaraningrat 1985). In describing the Javanese family, therefore, we do not explicitly distinguish between wong cilik and priyayi families, although some distinctions between social classes are noted.

Regression analysis on our sample found that income and other economic measures were only marginally associated with dietary adequacy and nutritional status. These associations disappeared when social and behavioural variables entered the equations. Certain behaviours, however, appeared to be associated with middle-class and others with lower-class lifestyles and values. We characterized middle-class households as having a home built of relatively modern or expensive materials, better-educated parents who belonged to social or community organizations, and a non-working mother/housewife. These characteristics of middle-class families are consistent with the literature on Javanese household structure (Hull 1982; Koentjaraningrat 1985).

Features in the children's socio-economic environment that were found to have a positive association with the adequacy of their dietary intake were the sanitation and safety of the home, and television ownership. Morbidity was not evaluated in this model, and a relationship between sanitation and reduced morbidity may have influenced the adequacy of the nutrient intake (World Health Organization 1985). Owning a television implied that the family had electricity and a "window on the world" through communication networking and exposure to outside influences. The Indonesian government frequently uses television for health and nutrition promotion; thus the relationship between television ownership and the adequacy of intake may be an education effect and/or a reflection of wealth and income.