Fore - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriage among the Fore involves the relatives of the bride and the groom in a lengthy and complex series of prestations. In the past, this could commence soon after the birth of the female when, following the custom of infant betrothal, she would be promised as the future wife of a young cross cousin. Among the North Fore, this preferred relationship between spouses includes both matrilateral and patrilateral cross cousins, but among the South Fore, patrilateral cross cousins are forbidden to marry. Today, it is more common for a couple to make known their intention to marry and thereby initiate the negotiations between their respective relatives concerning the bride-wealth payment that culminates all marriage ceremonies. The newly married couple resides with relatives of the husband. Many Fore men aspire to polygyny, but the lack of marriageable women caused by the high death rate from kuru means that relatively few men succeed. Although most younger widows do remarry, many men spend long periods without wives. Under these conditions, most marriages terminate with a death, and divorce accounts for only 5-10 percent of dissolutions.

Domestic Unit. In the past, the Fore observed strict residential segregation stemming from beliefs about the dangers posed to men by female menstrual pollution. All men above 8-10 years of age lived communally in large men's houses, and women and younger children resided in smaller separate houses. Today, residential segregation of the household is rarely maintained. Nuclear families, often augmented by elderly relatives or unmarried siblings of the husband or wife, occupy individual houses and are the primary production and consumption units in Fore society.

Inheritance. The Fore inherit land rights and valuables through their recognized patriline. Although women, after marriage, retain rights to land of their natal group, they cannot pass these on to their children.

Socialization. From birth, Fore infants enjoy nearly constant physical contact with parents, siblings, and other caretakers. As toddlers, they are free to investigate the world nearby and often are encouraged in spontaneous acts of aggression. From an early age, girls are expected to assist their mothers in gardening tasks. Young boys form small groups based on friendship and roam hamlet lands exploring, hunting, and playing together. Occasionally, such groups build their own houses and cook, eat, and sleep together. At 8-10 years of age, boys begin their formal initiation into the secret world of men where the values of cooperation, mutual support, and loyalty are reinforced.

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