Marriage. Traditionally, marriage took place in two stages: ratet, a small ceremony after which the couple lived together, and tunisiet , a large public feast held only at the completion of bride-wealth payment. Among the Nandi, these stages have typically occurred in rapid succession since about the turn of the twentieth century; among some other Kalenjin, at least during certain periods, a separation of many years has been customary, probably depending on availability of cattle or other livestock. Most Kalenjin—with some exceptions, notably the Okiek—pay bride-wealth in cattle. Once payment is complete, marriage is theoretically irrevocable. Traditional divorce grounds and proceedings exist, but divorce is in fact extremely rare, even in modern times. Permanent separations occur but do not technically negate marriage.
Polygyny is prestigious and, in the 1970s, was practiced by about 25 percent of ever-married Nandi men. Christians were monogamous slightly more frequently than non-Christians. Woman-woman marriage, found among Nandi, Kipsigis, and, since about the mid-twentieth century, among Keiyo, is not customary among other Kalenjin. Both women and men are active in negotiating marriages and reconciling separated couples. Husbands are jurally dominant, with the right to beat wives for certain offenses. Wives are publicly deferential; private relations are more nearly egalitarian. Leisure is spent with same-gender companions more than with one's spouse.
Domestic Unit. Each wife has her own field, cattle, and house within the family compound. A separate farm for each wife is the ideal. Compounds may include the husband's parents or mother, and other kin, depending on circumstances. Brothers and their wives may share a compound, although this is rare.
Inheritance. Traditional norms of cattle inheritance have been extended to land, money, and other property. Each wife's house-property consists of cattle given to her at marriage, acquired by her on her own, or given as bride-wealth for her daughters. These may be inherited only by her own sons (or, in Nandi and Kipsigis, the sons of her wife). A man's other property is inherited in equal shares by each wife's house. Failing lineal heirs, a man's property reverts to his brothers or their sons, a woman's to her co-wives' sons.
Socialization. Infants are treated indulgently, but strict obedience (enforced by corporal punishment) is expected from children by about the age of 6. Routine care of infants and toddlers is largely the responsibility of girls between ages 8 and 10. Children are economically important and have heavy responsibilities. It is common to spend a part of childhood fostered by a relative, helping with domestic work in exchange for board and school fees.
Adolescent initiation (circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls, and instruction for both) is a key feature of Kalenjin life and ethnic identity. These are sex-segregated rituals for most, but not all, Kalenjin groups. Adolescents are allowed a period of license to indulge in courtship and sexual play—before initiation for girls and afterward for boys. Girls marry directly following initiation; boys become warriors. Today some (mostly highly educated) girls refuse initiation.