Lak - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The only marriage rule among the Lak is that of moiety exogamy. While marriages between certain Lak segments are more common than one would expect by chance alone, these unions do not reflect prescriptive rules. Polygyny, once common among big-men, is no longer practiced. A large bride-price is required for all marriages, though marriages are no longer arranged in any strong sense. Postmarital residence is variable and usually depends on the relative strength of each spouse's segment leader. Thus, a man marrying a bigman's daughter is likely to reside in the big-man's village at least for the early years of the marriage. Affinal lineages have a great stake in marriages and are involved in a series of ritual exchanges that commemorate births and deaths. Exchanges of pigs are also common to shame a husband who has struck his wife, for example. Divorce is an option for men and women; in such cases, children usually remain with the mother and her lineage.

Domestic Unit. The basic domestic unit is the household, composed of either a nuclear or extended family. Each household cooks and gardens separately.

Inheritance . Inheritance is matrilineal in the case of the two goods that matter most, land and ritual objects. However, fathers give money to their sons, so that the sons are able to purchase land and access to ritual. In this way, fathers manage a hidden form of patrilineal transmission.

Socialization. Children are indulged until about age 5 or 6. At that point a major crisis is typical. The child is denied something and may throw a tantrum for hours, in which he rends his clothes and flings sand at himself and at those around him. When the tantrum is finished, he understands that he must begin to assume new duties. Girls as young as 5 years old are a valuable resource for households, and they are put to work carrying heavy garden produce. Boys are brought into the realm of productive labor later, when they are first given a plot to cultivate at about age 15 or 16. The real assumption of adult responsibilities for young men comes with marriage, when all at once they must build a house, plant a garden, perform bride-service for their father-in-law, and begin to amass the wealth that will allow them to move up in the men's secret society and hold their own as a participant in an extensive system of competitive feasting.

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