Marriage. In northern Somalia, marriages were traditionally contracted between previously nonrelated families, explicitly to enable the establishment of new alliances. In the south, the favorite spouse is a patrilateral parallel cousin, real or classificatory. As a Muslim, each Somali man has the right to be married to four women. Although viri-patrilocal and neolocal residence are characteristic of both endogamous and exogamous marriages, several clans practice an initial period of uxorilocal residence that, lasting as it occasionally does for many years, may develop into a permanent residence. The divorce rate is high. In one southern study, half of all rural women in their fifties had been married more than once.
Domestic Unit. The principal domestic unit is the uterinesibling group ( bah ), but it is not a closely bounded unit; many such groups have more distant relatives living with them, sometimes for extended periods. The descendants of a man, divided into several uterine-sibling groups, are collectively called a reer. This term means "people" and is, in principle, applicable to any level of agnatic grouping.
Inheritance. Sons generally receive an equal share of the father's property, whereas the rights of the daughters are less secure. Although daughters theoretically should inherit half the share that is allotted to each of their brothers, they have in several areas traditionally been allowed to inherit neither camels nor landed property. The ambitious 1975 family-law reform, stipulating that daughters should have equal rights to inheritance, has had little impact in either rural or urban areas.
Socialization. The duties of child rearing are essentially the mother's, although the father will take part in Quranic and religious education. The mother is usually aided in her task by both her sisters and her elder daughters. The values of respect for both seniority and the integrity of others are constantly emphasized. Small children are rapidly taught their position within the age hierarchy, but it is noteworthy how often parents will treat seriously even the most inchoate statement of a younger child.