Dogon - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Monogamy is the major form of marriage, although nonsororal polygyny with a limit of two wives is permitted. First marriages are generally arranged by parents; within certain limitations, those marrying for the second or third time are more free to choose their partners. Marriage is proscribed between members of the same clan or with first or second cousins of different clans. Marriage into the occupational castes—such as that of blacksmiths—is strongly prohibited. Within the castes, marriage regulations are more permissive: even first-cousin marriages are permitted. Prior to the birth of the first child, the wife lives at the home of her parents, while her husband continues to reside in the bachelor quarters where he has lived from the age of 8 to 10. Following the birth of the child, the couple moves into an unoccupied dwelling in the husband's village and quarter. Divorce is not uncommon; it occurs most often in polygynous households. When a woman leaves her husband, she takes with her only the youngest child—the remaining children stay with the husband's family.

Domestic Unit. The household is usually an extended family consisting of both nuclear and polygynous units. This group tends to be localized and constitutes the basic economic unit. The authority of the household unit is vested in the father, who controls both the economic and ceremonial functions of the family and demands unquestioning obedience from his offspring.

Inheritance. Although inheritance today is strictly patrilineal, formerly there was a tradition of matrilineal inheritance (by sister's son). A younger brother is first in line to inherit all collective property, followed by the eldest son. On the other hand, private property goes first to the eldest son (who must provide for his siblings), then the younger brother. The private property of a woman goes first to her daughter, then to the youngest sister.

Socialization. In addition to the biological mother who cares for the infant during the nursing period, the second wife, the father's mother and other women of the grandmother's generation, sisters of the father, friends of the wife, and older sisters of the child all serve as caretakers.

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