"Family Member" as a Status
This lesser sharing among members of the same named status is not obviously consistent with views of culture's operation that depend, as Linton's does, on the assumption that statuses are always and uniformly the centers of sharing of the cultural elements that concern the activities involving status category members as such. The findings here suggest that for family affairs, sharing is greatest among family group members without regard to status dif-
ferences within the group. This suggests that for the family, at least the part played by internal, differentiated statuses has been overemphasized and the part played by the status "family member" underestimated. This point is an important one because the data in table 6 indicate that the statuses that both group members and anthropologists think of as making up the family (i.e., mother, father, daughter, son) are less influential as concerns sharing family culture than the less obviously marked status, "family member."
The fact that family members share more of family culture with one another than they do with members of their particular statuses within the family does not mean that these latter statuses play no part in the distribution of culture. What it means is that the nature of the part played by statuses in bringing particular cultural elements into different situations cannot be assumed and may be different in uniformity for different statuses. Named statuses are surely involved in cultural distribution through greater sharing of certain understandings within the status than in other statuses, but this is not necessarily so for all understandings with all statuses.
Even with respect to total family culture, there are some differences in sharing associated with statuses other than family member. Table 6 indicates that for the Swahili, sharing among mothers and also among fathers is significantly greater (at the 0.01 level according to the sign test) than sharing among unrelated members of the same society but that other statuses do not exhibit this same distinctive level of sharing. The fact that this is true for mothers but not fathers in the two comparison societies is suggestive of the variation in the part particular statuses play as foci of sharing in different groups. Mothers and fathers from different families do not share as much with one another as members of the same family do, but they do share more within their statuses than unrelated people from different families ("Total Sample") do.
This may indicate that these statuses play a distinctive part in Swahili family and community life in that they are particularly important in making family life more similar in different families than it would otherwise be. In simply understanding things more as their counterparts in other families do, the parents exert a homogenizing influence quite apart from whatever their specific behaviors guided by those understandings may be.
This implies that the basis for Swahili society is better understood if, in addition to the distinctive expectations and saliences of statuses, there is also information about the extent of sharing within those statuses. Currently used views of cultural distribution seem to assume that statuses are highly similar in the uniformity of their members' sharing of the elements associated with them, but evidence here suggests that some statuses involve more uniformity (i.e., sharing) in members' understandings and others involve much less.
It may be that statuses have levels of sharing quite as characteristic of them as are the particular elements of culture they share. Mothers may be the main
or only actors in a society who have the understandings needed, for example, to deal with distraught children in ways that will be generally approved, but it may be equally important to the way the society's family culture works that it is mothers who share more of it across family lines rather than do daughters or fathers. Similarly, if there were a society in which no internally differentiated status had members who shared more with their counterparts in other families (and none of the three here are like this), that would probably be associated with a family culture working quite differently from one in which there was at least one status with greater cross-family sharing regardless of what that status was.
The clearest way in which sharing beyond the family's boundaries can influence the culture of the broader group is through the sharers exerting similar influences in their different families and thereby bringing about some pressure toward general uniformity. Sharing culture with fellow status category members in other families need not lead to pressures for homogeneity, but it does provide a necessary base for such pressures.
It also provides a possible base for conflict. This would be found in a family where the father and mother share more with fathers and mothers in other families than they do with group members generally, while sons and daughters do not have the same higher sharing with their counterparts in other families. In many Swahili families, the children, especially sons, label their parents as "old-fashioned" and "too strict." In some part, this may be because the parents are likeliest to share what is identified with tradition and, given the substantial sharing between spouses, bring the children to feel subject to old-fashioned treatment. The children, often characterized by parents as "difficult," need share little with one another or the parents to gain that characterization and to oppose the parents' views.