Marriage. Traditionally, a young man was dependent upon his lineage head and elders both for permission to marry and for the material goods required for bride-wealth; elders of the woman's lineage were also much involved in the discussions and negotiations surrounding the marriage. Bride-wealth has varied over time but has usually included iron objects, domestic animals, and, in the twentieth century, money. Marriage has been typically patrilocal and patriarchal, with the husband and father as the undisputed head of the household. Although polygyny has often been presented as an ideal, limited means have always made it rare in practice. Children are highly prized, and historically a couple did not set up their own household until the birth of their first child, living until then in the household of the husband's mother. Childlessness is one of the most serious misfortunes imaginable; women are typically blamed, and the marriage often ends or the husband takes a second wife. Divorce, which can occur for numerous reasons, is not uncommon and may or may not involve return of the bride-wealth; children, as members of the father's lineage, usually either stay with the father or return to him later. Even bride-wealth marriages are now often mainly nuclear-family affairs, and other alternatives to traditional marriage are common. These include Christian marriage (with or without bride-wealth), elopement, and single parenthood.
Domestic Unit. A typical household consists of a nuclear family (husband, wife, and unmarried children), although aged parents, unmarried siblings, offspring of deceased siblings, or others are often household members as well. All members of the household acknowledge the authority of its head, the husband; each wife or other adult female in the household has traditionally had her own fields, granaries, and kitchen or cooking hut.
Inheritance. Inheritance has been, and largely remains, patrilineal. Apart from land, the rights to which were passed on equally to all sons, the eldest son was traditionally the designated heir of the father's property, although he was supposed to provide for the needs of his younger brothers.
Socialization. Mothers are responsible for the initial care of their children and for much of their socialization. After weaning and up to the age of 5 or 6, however, much of the day-to-day caretaking of a child has customarily been done by an opposite-sex sibling or other preadolescent (often a member of the father's lineage), called lapidi (nurse-child). From early on, girls and boys learn gender-appropriate behaviors and activities, and these are reflected in both their play and their chores and other responsibilities. Sons have traditionally learned about farming, hunting, herding, and lineage and chiefdom traditions from their fathers and other lineage males; girls learn farming and domestic duties from their mothers. Since independence, formal schooling has provided a strong socializing influence from outside the home for more and more Acholi, especially those attending secondary school. Army membership has also supplied a distinct, if largely negative, socializing influence on many Acholi young men. Some Acholi mothers exclaim that they do not know their sons after they have been away in the army.