Haitians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Marriage. The plantation system and the institution of slavery had a profound influence on domestic entities. Additionally, the laws of the early republic reinforced the tendency of the rural population to avoid legal and church marriages. The most recognizable kinship pattern in rural Haiti is the somewhat patrilineal extended family living in a cluster of households linked through legal, ritual, consanguineal, and affinal ties and headed by the oldest male member.

In addition to conventional church weddings, longterm monogamous unions, and neolocal nuclear-family households, there are socially accepted unions without formal sanction, couples who do not coreside, fathers who do not participate actively in rearing their children, and households without a nuclear family at their core.

In writing about Haiti, anthropologists often avoid the word "family"; instead they use "household," which embraces the wide range of relatives—direct and collateral, on the sides of both parents—that the Haitian "family" typically includes.

Inheritance. The complexity of the domestic unit and the varieties of household types do create inheritance problems. In general, all children from all the varieties of conjugal unions have equal rights of inheritance, but, in practice, residents, contacts, and personal feelings are important determinants of who inherits.

Socialization. Because both adults and children may change residential affiliation with relative ease and frequency and enjoy a variety of temporary residential rights, children often come into contact with a relatively large number of adults who may discipline and train them. In general, a great deal of emphasis is placed on respect for adults, and adults are quick to use corporal punishment to ensure that they receive it. Fewer than half of the rural children attend school, and only about 20 percent of those complete the primary grades.


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