Kapingamarangi - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, there were no marriage rules other than those prohibiting sex between parents and their children and between full or half-siblings. Other than this narrowly defined incest rule, we find only marriage strategies, usually focused on protecting or augmenting a family's landholdings. Thus we find instances of polygyny, polyandry, cross-cousin marriage, parallel-cousin marriage, father's brother-brother's daughter marriage, wife sharing, and wife swapping between male parallel first cousins for purposes of conceiving a child. Marriages were usually arranged by Parents. After an initial period of virilocal residence, the couple lived in the bride's mother's compound. A man practiced strict avoidance of all in-laws except small children of the compound. The considerable strains of uxorilocal residence make marriages brittle in their early years, and divorce has always been common (25-33 percent of all marriages).

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is the household compound, which can contain as few as one or as many as five of what we would call nuclear families, each of which consists of one to twelve (or sometimes more) people. The core of a compound was a set of related women, their in-married spouses, and their children. Each household contains a woman, with or without spouse and children, but it may also contain a cousin or elderly relative. At puberty, boys move to the men's house to sleep, but they continue to eat and work at their natal compounds. Thus, a compound ranged in size from one to thirty or more people. Kapinga living on Pohnpei continue to organize their households by compounds Wherever possible.

Socialization. Children typically grow up in a compound consisting of their (natural or adoptive) mother's female relatives, in-married men, and their children. Men of the compound spend little time there, appearing mainly for meals and to sleep. When a baby is old enough to be weaned, he or she is given to an older sibling for care. By age 4 or 5 children (especially boys) join peer groups and spend less time at their compounds and more time around the islets and the lagoon. Boys' groups are more stable than girls' groups, since girls are more useful to their mothers at a much earlier age. Boys begin to fish on the reef with pole and line at 7 or 8 years of age. Traditionally, there was no formal initiation of children, although a father gave a small feast when his adolescent son first began to sleep in the men's house, and a boy got his first loincloth when he caught one thousand flying fish. There was no comparable initiation for girls. Boys and young unmarried men constituted a work force for the men's house, which organized group fishing and provided labor for all cult house construction and repair projects. While a girl was socialized almost entirely by women of her own and related compounds, boys were socialized first by their mothers, then by their older siblings, then by their peers, and finally by men of their compounds and the men's house.

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