Marriage. In the past, young people did not choose their own partners. A girl's father and mother chose a young man, based on his ability to work, and made arrangements for the marriage, usually without the knowledge of either young person. Today young people usually choose their own partners. Couples may "marry in the hammock"—a short ritual that is considered the "traditional" form of marriage. Alternatively, they may present themselves to the congreso (a politico-religious community gathering) and state their intention to marry. Unmarried men who move in with women are considered "married," and such couples are expected to notify the congreso. Some of the younger women who meet their future husbands in Panama City marry there according to civil law. Religious ceremonies either in San Blas or in Panama City are another possibility. Children take their biological father's surname unless he refuses to recognize his baby, in which case the child uses the mother's name. No apparent stigma is attached to the mother or to children bearing her name. Women retain their own names. No money, food, land, or other goods are exchanged between households before, during, or after the marriage. Island endogamy prevails, and interracial marriages are frowned upon.
Once married, a man is expected to reside in his mother-in-law's household and to work under the direction of his father-in-law. Any fish caught, game hunted, or produce harvested (even from fields to which he owns the rights) must be given to his mother-in-law to distribute.
Domestic Unit. The prototypical Kuna household is comprised of a senior couple, one or more married daughters with their husbands and children, and any unmarried children. Households may reorganize any number of times within the life span of any given generation. For example, a woman may return to her mother's household each time her husband goes to Panama City to work. Kin, unrelated children, visitors, teachers, or other government-paid employees working in the village—even an anthropologist—may join any given household for several days, months, or even years.
Inheritance. Inheritance of land is bilateral. Although Kuna sons and daughters inherit approximately equal amounts of land, men have greater possibilites for acquiring land than do women. Women inherit but do not lay claim to new plots of land. Only men clear uncultivated land. For example, virgin jungle may be claimed by clearing and cultivating a plot. Whoever clears the land retains usufruct rights, which are passed to his children. Spouses do not inherit land from one another. Husband and wife each retain rights to his or her own property and other resources. If one spouse dies, his or her property is distributed among his or her offspring.
Coconut groves, located on the mainland coast or on uninhabited islands, may be inherited by an individual or by groups (descended from a male or female ancestor) that collectively own and exploit coconut groves and, sometimes, agricultural lands.
Socialization. Infants are raised primarily by their mothers and grandmothers with the help of other female relatives. At around the age of 5, boys start accompanying their fathers and other male relatives to the fields and on hunting and fishing trips. Girls stay with their female relatives. Adolescent girls help with the care of their younger siblings. Since about the 1960s, Kuna boys and girls have been required to attend primary school. Many youths go on to secondary school and high school; a few attend the university.