Temne - Marriage and Family

Marriage. To be married is strongly desired by adult Temne, especially in the rural agrarian context, where subsistence is very difficult for a single adult, especially if that adult has children. In the traditional Temne marriage system, bride-wealth, comprised of consumer goods and/or money, passes from the groom's kin group to the bride's and/or to guardians and is subsequently distributed more widely. The exchange of bride-wealth and dowry or counterpayment seals the transfer of rights and obligations from the bride's father/guardian; this transfer marks a true marriage from other forms, which may be equally permanent but not as acceptable to the kin groups concerned. The rights transferred are those with respect to domestic service, labor and the income from that labor, children, and sexual services. All subsequent major decisions are made by the husband, who may or may not consult with his wife. Marriage ceremonies differ between Muslim and non-Muslim Terrine; both differ from Christian rites.

Although the incidence of polygynous marriages has declined since the 1950s, especially in urban areas, nearly four of every ten married men still had two or more wives in 1976, and six of every ten married women were part of a polygynous family. A polygynously married man's first wife becomes the head wife/manager. Co-wife tensions can lead to discord but usually do not.

Since the 1950s, divorce rates have increased in both rural and urban areas; urban rates are higher than rural rates at any given time. There are generally accepted grounds for a husband, and also for a wife, to secure a divorce. If a wife initiates proceedings, the bride-wealth must be returned; if a husband, it is usually forfeit. Previous divorce(s) are a barrier to remarriage only in rare instances.

Domestic Unit. The male- or female-headed household is the primary residential unit. There are various types of households, but most have a family (husband, wife or wives, and their children) as the core. Some are complex (two or more married men, either father and son or two brothers), often with other, more-distant kin or even strangers in residence. The household head resolves disputes by mediation and moot proceedings and represents the household in village affairs.

Inheritance. Land-use rights and most portable forms of wealth are inherited patrilineally; womens' jewelry, clothing, and rare other items pass from mother to daughter. Disputes occur between the deceased's brothers, between his sons, and between his brothers and his sons.

Socialization. A child is socialized by a comparatively large number of people including parents, older siblings and elders in the household where he or she grows up. For a variety of reasons, fosterage is common; many children are raised outside the parental household. Significant socialization formerly took place during a girl's initiation into the Bundu society and a boy's initiation into Poro. Since about the 1940s, however, initiates into both societies have been younger and have spent little time receiving training in seclusion. Both societies helped prepare adolescents for their roles in adult life. Socialization continued intermittently throughout adult life as people learned from new experiences and patterned their behavior on role models who came to be widely respected and even revered.

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