Yoruba - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriage is prohibited among people who can trace a biological relationship. There are no ideal partners. First marriages still may be arranged by elders, who assess the suitability of spouses in terms of mental and physical health, character, or propitiousness of the union. Some marriage alliances were arranged for political or economic reasons. The type of ritual and amount of bride-wealth depended on the status of the partners. Marital residence was patrilocal but in the late twentieth century has become neolocal. Men traditionally married, and some continue to marry, polygynously. Increasingly since the mid-twentieth century, marriages between educated men and women reflect personal choice. Divorce is now common, although it is said to have been rare in precolonial times.

Domestic Unit. Agnatically related men often shared the same large compound, taking separate sections for their wives and children. Each wife had a separate room but cooked for and made conjugal visits to her husband in rotation. Until the age of puberty, children slept in their mothers' rooms; youths moved to a common room, and girls soon moved to the compounds of their husbands.

Inheritance. Landed property is inherited corporately following descent-group lines; other property such as money or personal belongings is divided among direct heirs, with equal shares going to the set of children born to each wife. Nothing is passed to a senior relative or wife unless there is a will. Wives and slaves were once inherited by junior siblings.

Socialization. The closest ties are between mother and child. Mothers indulge their children, whereas fathers are more remote and strict. A child is treated permissively until about age 2, after which physical punishment and ridicule are used to regulate behavior. Pre-Western and pre-Islamic education stressed economic and psychological independence, but not social independence. Children learned occupations from parents of the same sex by participating from age 5 or 6 in their work. Imitation and games played a large part in socialization.


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