Ambae - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Before conversion, men of high rank on both sides of the island often practiced polygyny. Such men aspired to have ten wives. One would be a member of his own moiety with whom he could not have sexual intercourse. Child betrothal also was common. Churches discouraged both polygyny and arranged marriage. Today young people have considerable freedom to choose a marriage partner, so long as (in East Ambae) moiety exogamy is followed. Bride-wealth exchanges customarily involved tusked pigs and mats. Nowadays, cloth, household goods and/or money are included. Postmarital residence tends to be virilocal. All missions on the island discourage or prohibit divorce, and legal separation of marriage partners is very rare.

Domestic Unit. The household composed of the nuclear family is now the basic domestic unit. Prior to conversion to Christianity, settlement patterns were such that the domestic unit was the extended family.

Inheritance. In West Ambae, land inheritance is patrilineal. In East Ambae, land inheritance is said traditionally to have been bilateral, but the pattern of funerary obligations suggest the priority of matrilineal land transmission. Children must make funerary gifts to the father's matrilineal kin to secure ownership of his land. Matrilineal heirs need make no such payment. Land inheritance is often contentious.

Socialization. Parents share duties as primary caretakers, and grandparents, father's sisters, and the mother's brothers also play important roles in socialization. Children learn Primarily through imitation rather than verbal instruction. Both wives and children may be subject to beatings, although legal sanctions may be imposed in cases of severe physical abuse. A national system of education has replaced many (but not all) church schools. Most children can walk to school through grade six. Boarding schools on the island provide education through high school.

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