Lao - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage partners are not prescribed. Young people often marry cousins or others from their own village. Marriage partners may be proposed either by parents or by the young people, but parents of both families are generally consulted and must approve in order for traditional marriage negotiations to proceed. Bride-price varies greatly, but usually includes gold, one or more animals, and, these days, cash. The marriage ceremony itself takes place at the bride's family home and is a Brahmanic/animist ceremony. Polygyny was practiced but uncommon before 1975, but has been prohibited by the present government. Divorce is discouraged, though it may be initiated by either party. Initial residence varies, but is usually uxorilocal; patrilocal residence is also common. Most couples establish an independent residence after several years, though there is a strong tendency for the youngest daughter to continue to live with her parents to care for them in their old age.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is usually a nuclear family but may include grandparents and/or siblings or other relatives, often on the wife's side. The average household consists of six to eight persons. Two or more related households may farm together and store their rice in a common granary.

Inheritance. The custodial daughter and her in-marrying husband often inherit the house compound and much of the parental paddy land. Other children may receive an inheritance when they marry or leave home, with sons and noncustodial daughters receiving relatively equal shares. The content and the timing of each child's inheritance is determined by the parents. The passing on of house and field ownership to the custodial child and spouse signals the passing of authority to the next generation.

Socialization. Children learn by observation and direct instruction. Infants and very young children are indulged; older children are expected to obey their elders and help with family tasks. By age five, girls help with household work; by age nine, boys pasture cattle or buffalo. By adolescence, children can carry out nearly all adult subsistence tasks, at least with supervision. Both boys and girls attend village schools, although usually only a few boys are encouraged to continue their education in the district or provincial capital.

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