Guadalcanal - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriage is said to be prohibited between Members of the same matrilineage; therefore, hamlets are ideally exogamous but the village is not because it consists of Hamlets of all five of the clans. The parental generation arranges marriages, holding that young people are unlikely to be appropriately pragmatic in choosing mates. Negotiations for marriage are initiated by the father of the young man, but the responsibility to solicit bride-price contributions is equally shared by the father's clan and that of the maternal uncle. Forced marriages are understood to be less than ideal, and strong objections by either of the couple are enough to break off the match. The bride-price goes, in roughly equal amounts, to the girl's patrilateral and matrilateral kin—much in the same way that it was collected by the boy's family. After the bride-price is paid, the groom's father arranges for a house to be built near his own, where the newly wed couple will live. Later the couple and their children will move to a hamlet associated with the husband's mother's subclan, where his rights—particularly to the use of land—are of greater significance. Divorce is rare, and the only recognized grounds are cruelty, incompatibility, or adultery. Because it is only in cases of serious bodily harm to the wife that her family can retain the bride-price that was paid, wives are under far more pressure to remain within a marriage than is the case for husbands, although ideally either spouse has an equal right to seek divorce. Polygyny occurred in the past, although it tended to be an option limited only to particularly wealthy and influential men, due to the burden of raising high bride-prices.

Domestic Unit. The household consists minimally of a married adult male, his wife, and children, but frequently it also includes an aging parent (either the husband's or the wife's) and unmarried siblings of the husband. In particular, an unmarried or divorced woman will turn to her brother's household as her proper home, should the need arise. A newly married son and his wife will live temporarily in the boy's father's house until their first independent dwelling is built nearby, but they will build future houses in the hamlet of the boy's uterine uncle.

Inheritance. Use rights to land for adult males follows clan membership, and clan lore is passed from uterine uncles to nephews. But a father will pass to his sons the practical knowledge and skills he has accumulated (e.g., garden magic, technical skills such as canoe building). Heritable personal property is minimal because at the death of an individual his or her closest kin ritually express their grief by the destruction of part of such property—clothing is burned, canoes are broken apart, and the like—but a man's principal heirs are always his uterine nephews.

Socialization. Children are reared primarily by their mothers for the first few years of life, but all members of the Household and both maternal and paternal kin will intervene with corrections or scoldings when necessary. Children are expected to learn early on the value of sharing and respect for the belongings of others. Girls begin their practical training in adult skills and roles early on, but boys do not begin to go about with their fathers until they reach the age of 7 or so, at which time a man might make a small fishing rod for his son and take him down to the beach. At a fairly young age a father will give his son a small pig to raise, and both he and the boy's uterine uncle will begin to take his practical education in hand. Fathers teach their sons skills but not clan lore. If there once were boys' puberty rituals, all memory of them has been lost, but girls still undergo facial scarring when they are about age 12 or 13.

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