Miskito - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Couples traditionally were monogamous, but polygyny was allowed. Marriage residence was ideally matrilocal, although population growth and increased village size has encouraged village endogamy in the twentieth century. Matrilocal residence was favored because of the frequent and lengthy absences of men seeking wage labor. Matrilocal residence also encouraged solidarity among core groups of related women, which are important socialization agents. A couple will postpone church marriage until they are sure the marriage is stable. Formal divorce is absent; a couple simply separates.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is generally the nuclear family. One or several related nuclear families with additional single relatives may compose a household.

Inheritance. Traditionally, all property was either destroyed upon the death of the owner or buried with him or her. Today, property is inherited by the surviving spouse or by children of the union, but lack of firm guidelines leads to much conflict.

Socialization. The core group of matrilocally resident or village-endogamous related women (mother, sisters, daughters) is the most important socialization unit. These conservative women, who do not mingle with foreigners, continue to inculcate children with traditional Miskito customs and language. Children are raised permissively and are strongly individualistic (especially the boys) yet cooperative village members.

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