Shona - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Polygyny was traditionally preferred, but the cost of living, and especially of education, has made monogamy more common. The preferred form of marriage is virilocal, with the payment of bride-price, traditionally in cattle but now in cash and kind. Bride-service was formerly an alternative; in the remoter low-lying areas where cattle are not kept, it remains a prominent part of marriage transactions. Occasionally, a young girl may be pledged to a wealthy man against help in time of extreme hardship. Divorce, although discouraged, is common and usually involves the return of a proportion of the bride-price, depending on the duration of the marriage and the number of children born.

Traditionally, the sexual activities of women were strictly controlled, and girls were inspected for virginity at marriage. Such controls have largely broken down.

Domestic Unit. In a polygynous marriage, the domestic unit was usually a wife and her children. Such a unit was usually allocated its own fields for subsistence purposes. A nuclear family is now the most common domestic unit.

Inheritance. A man's status, wives, and possessions may be inherited by his brother or by his adult child. The inheritor takes responsibility for the family of the deceased. Adelphic succession results in the position of chieftainship rotating between houses descended from different wives of the founder of the dynasty. Adelphic inheritance sometimes poses problems in a modern family, when the deceased husband's kin take all the family property, leaving the wife destitute. A woman's personal property is inherited by her daughters.

Socialization. Infants are pampered and receive much personal attention until the age of 3 or 4, resulting in rapid development of motor and cognitive skills. Thereafter, they are strictly disciplined. Children receive much personal attention from peers and a number of adults in the extended family. Although importance is attached to authority structures, including authority based on age among siblings, this authority is diffused among a number of older persons. Now, with more emphasis on the elementary family, authority often rests entirely with the family head and is more open to abuse.

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