Marriage. First marriages, in particular, ideally are arranged by the parents or at least require their consent, but elopements are becoming more common. In theory, persons who share an ancestor within three generations, or who trace descent from a more distant common ancestor but themselves belong to different generations, are forbidden to marry. In practice, reaction to a proposed marriage that would join together distant relatives depends on whether the immediate families of the young people have been treating one another as kinsfolk. Some families still follow the old custom of rejoicing publicly when a bride has demonstrated her virginity. Most young married people reside with the husbands' parents until they are considered ready for independent life. Until recently, they were also expected to reside permanently on land the husband had inherited either through his father or through his mother. A man who agreed to live with his wife's kin was thought to yield much of his authority over his household. A permanently separated couple is regarded as divorced by the community if not by the church. Once children have been born, kin on both sides will put pressure on the spouses to reconcile or will try to persuade an unmarried sibling to act as stepparent. Sororal polygyny is dying out.
Domestic Units. The people who cook and eat meals together are considered a family. The teenage boys and young unmarried men of the neighborhood often sleep in an unoccupied house but eat with their families. A nuclear family or a currently unmarried woman and her children are ordinarily the minimal family units. As their own children grow up and leave home, couples often begin rearing a second family of grandchildren or wards. Other helpful or dependent kinsfolk may be present as well. Families outside South Tarawa average 5.8 persons.
Inheritance. Parents leave their house to one of their Children, often when they retire to stay with each of their children in turn. Portable artifacts are probably distributed informally, but large canoes tend to be treated like land. Items of esoteric knowledge, which are considered a kind of personal property, may be bestowed on a favorite child, on another young relative, or even on an outsider.
Socialization. A good deal of personal independence is conceded even to young children, who at least in theory have the right to own property and to decide with whom they will live. Small children are treated indulgently by everyone, even when they act aggressively. Older children are expected to help with household tasks, to show respect for senior kinsfolk, and to refrain from calling attention to themselves when adults are present. Physical punishment is acceptable once a child has reached the age of reason. Threats, ridicule, and scary stories about punitive agents from outside the family are commoner sanctions, however.