Marriage. The Kipsigis are polygamous. Rates of polygamy may be declining, however, as people continue to adjust to structural changes within the local economy. Christian strictures against polygamy also influence marriage patterns for many Kipsigis. Bride-wealth payments include livestock and cash. Kipsigis say it is best if co-wives live far apart, but the increasing cost and scarcity of land make such arrangements impracticable for most. Men are expected to supply stock to each house, so that each wife will have cows to feed her children. Over the years, women develop a proprietary interest in these herds, which come to include bride-wealth cattle from their daughters' marriages. If a woman has no sons, she may use some of these cattle to "marry" another woman. According to convention, she will choose her "wife's" principal lover, whose status is acknowledged with the payment of one cow. Children born from such marriages take the clan identity of the cow giver's husband. Divorce is exceptionally rare, even in cases where husband and wife have been separated for many years.
Domestic Unit. Every married woman keeps her own house, in which the cooking is done and the young children sleep. As a man's family matures, certainly before his daughters reach puberty, he will build his own house nearby. Once initiated, young men move to separate sleeping quarters some distance from the main family compound. Older brothers who have married before a farm is subdivided build separate compounds for their families. Each household operates as a relatively autonomous family unit.
Inheritance. When a man is close to death, custom dictates that he call his sons together and instruct them about the disposition of his property, which, these days, may include certain off-farm assets. The livestock that a man has acquired by his own efforts—by purchase or by patient husbandry—are divided equally among all his sons. Bride-wealth cattle, however, are attached to the households from which his married daughters have departed, so that brothers from different houses may be more or less fortunate in the number of cattle they inherit. In cases where extended families occupy one farm, each household ideally receives an equal share of the land, which, over time, will be divided evenly between the sons of each house. If a man has more than one farm, each will be regarded as a separate estate to be shared exclusively by the members of the household who live on that farm.
Socialization. Young children are nursed, fed, dressed, bathed, and watched over by women. Fathers take a keen interest in their children, but physical contact and displays of affection are generally restrained. As a rule, young girls are given household chores at an earlier age than their brothers. Shortly after puberty, boys and girls undergo separate initiations, which coincide with a one-month break in the school calendar. Boys are circumcised, and girls have parts of the clitoris and labia removed. Boys return from initiation with an ascetic bearing that signifies their ascent from childish things and childish behavior. They are expected to remain aloof from their mothers and sisters, who in turn treat them with respect. Girls return from initiation with the expectation they will soon be married, a situation that is often forestalled these days by their continued education. Kipsigis who belong to certain Protestant sects do not send their daughters for initiation; some are developing a "Christian" version of initiation for their sons.