Family is one of the most central and important social institutions in Iranian life. The family gives individuals social status, determines their life chances, protects them against all threats, and ensures their emotional health. Social life also revolves around the family and its kinship. Elders are the backbone of the family and garner the most authority and respect. Children, especially sons, are responsible for protecting and caring for their parents in their old age. Sending an ailing parent to a nursing home is a new concept and is not accepted by most Iranian families. Recently, a few nursing homes have been established in Tehran for elderly people without children or with children unable to care for them. Family gatherings are the most important aspect of social life. As Iranians face strict limits on entertainment under a theocratic government, family gatherings have become extremely important, not only as a means of performing various rituals, sharing food, and so forth, but also as the safest and most protected site for entertainment. The Iranian family, like most other Middle Eastern families, used to be an extended family where new couples lived with their parents and siblings, either in the same compound or adjacent to one another. However, with increasing urbanization and social mobility, the number of extended families has declined; most new couples form their own households away from parental compounds. To understand the Iranian family and the norms governing its operation, it is signifi cant to start with a historical view of gender roles and women’s status within the society.