Belau - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage is fundamentally an economic institution. Traditionally, high-ranking women were prohibited from "falling," that is, marrying a man of lower rank. The prohibition was based on economic considerations—if the husband were of low rank his relatives would be unable to make a sufficient financial contribution and the couple's male child would lack the financial assets needed to maintain his chiefly authority. Today, individuals are free to select spouses, but social rank and wealth are critical considerations. Fragile marital ties are subordinate to enduring kinship ties: while the former are severed at death or divorce, the latter are a "bridge forever." High-ranking individuals tend to marry outside of the village, and there is still considerable rank endogamy. Newly married couples establish independent houses on land near the husband's father's house; men who receive a chiefly title can move back to their matrilineal home. Divorce is frequent and remarriage is the norm.

Domestic Unit. The residential family ( ongalek ) often includes grandparents and other extended kin. Adoption of children within the network of kin is common.

Inheritance . Property belonging to the house is controlled by senior "offspring of women" members, who select the heirs to land and valuables. Much private property passes in the patriline. Women give turtleshell heirlooms to their daughters.

Socialization. Mothers play a greater role in child raising than fathers; children have a more relaxed, affectionate relationship with fathers than with mother's brothers. Older Siblings take on child-care responsibilities. Young men's clubs act as powerful peer reference groups.

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