Micronesians - Kinship, Marriage and Family

Kinship. Micronesian kinship groups and descent vary from one island society to another, but generally give primacy to the female line. The most important kinship group above the level of the domestic unit is the matrilineage, a group of women closely related through their mothers. Kinship terminology reflects the authority of the female line. Micronesian kinship is complex, however, and relatedness is considered through a wide circle of relatives on both the mother's and the father's sides, as well as through "fictive" or constructed kin relations such as customary adoption of children.

Marriage. Micronesian marriages are monogamous and in general are quite stable after the couple has begun having children. There is no particular preference for ethnic group endogamy, especially among the younger Micronesian college-age migrants to the United States. Micronesian Marriages to White and Latino spouses are fairly common.

Domestic Unit. In Micronesia, the domestic unit has narrowed considerably within the past two generations. Cash economy has replaced much of the subsistence fishing and gardening activities of the past that provided the rationale for larger, extended domestic groups who resided and worked Together and shared subsistence resources. Nevertheless, family structure among Micronesians in the United States is still close-knit and multigenerational. The average number of Persons per household among Guamanian and other Micronesian migrants is significantly higher (3.57 and 3.88, respectively) than the U.S. average (2.74).

Inheritance. Traditional inheritance of family land and group membership in most Micronesian societies is matrilineal, and married couples typically reside on the wife's land. But the succession of foreign colonial administrations in Micronesia—Spain, Germany, Japan, and the United States—has greatly altered the customary patterns of land ownership and inheritance, postmarital residence, and the transmission of surnames. Micronesians in the United States have largely adopted the American legal practice of children carrying their father's surname. Frequently the father's given name becomes the family surname in the United States, a practice foreign to Micronesian custom.

Socialization. Micronesian patterns of socialization are highly indulgent during the early years, and children are trained to be respectful toward older family members and to be sensitive toward harmonious social relationships. Responsibilities for infant and child caretaking frequently fall upon young adolescents, especially girls. This practice of multiple caretakers and early child-care responsibilities among older children may help foster socially affiliative and accommodating behavior among adults. Some high school-aged Guamanian youth have formed Chamorro youth clubs to promote ethnic identification, but generally there is very little formal socialization into the ethnic group among Micronesians in the United States.


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