Hawaiians - Marriage and Family

Marriage. In pre-Christian Hawaii both sexes enjoyed near-complete freedom to initiate and terminate sexual attachments. Marriage was unmarked by ceremony and was hardly distinguished from cohabitation and liaisons, except in chiefly unions. The birth of children was the more Important ceremonial occasion. Marrying someone of higher rank was the ideal for both men and women. Polygyny was the norm among the ruling chiefs, permissible but infrequent among the common people. Postmarital residence was determined by pragmatic considerations.

Domestic Unit. Both commoners and chiefs lived in large extended-family household groups with fluid composition. The indigenous religion mandated that men and women had to have separate dwelling houses and could not eat together.

Inheritance. Men were more likely to inherit land rights than women, while women were privileged in the inheritance of the family's spiritual property and knowledge. Since the legal changes of the nineteenth century land inheritance among Hawaiians has been mostly bilateral.

Socialization. In Hawaiian families today grandparents have an especially close relationship with their grandchildren, and they frequently take over parenting duties. As in other Polynesian societies, children may be adopted freely without emotional turmoil or secretiveness. Emphasis is placed on Respect for age and mutual caring between family members.

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