Garifuna - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Island Carib may have preferred marriage between cross cousins, and men of higher rank were polygynous. Chiefs excepted, residence was uxorilocal. Today marriage is informal and brittle. Women commonly bear children before a permanent union is established, with or without a legal or religious ceremony. In both aboriginal and modern times, male travelers frequently had wives in more than one location.

Domestic Unit. What has been called the matrifocal household has been typical since at least the 1940s. This formerly was extended through at least three generations of women, but since the 1970s, probably owing to the massive emigration of both men and women, has often been reduced to a grandmother and her grandchildren under the age of puberty. Among more highly educated and affluent Garifuna, monogamy and the nuclear family are highly valued.

Inheritance. Modern Garifuna tend to dispose of their private movable property in the form of gifts to favored persons if and when they feel death is imminent. They favor children or grandchildren who have remained at home to care for them or who have sent back larger sums of money. To control the behavior of their descendants, older people commonly threaten to withhold an inheritance or to dispose of all their property before death.

Socialization. Boys are raised permissively until early manhood, when they are suddenly shoved out of the maternal fold and expected to earn their own living as well as to support their mothers and sisters. Girls are required to "grow up" more quickly—to work at domestic tasks at an early age—and are more severly reprimanded when they transgress. In the absence of the men, women seem to have more difficulty disciplining their sons.

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