Mardudjara - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Classificatory bilateral cross-cousin marriage is the prescribed form. Polygyny was a social ideal not always realized in the past, and today it is still practiced but is not Common. Infant betrothal was once the norm, all adults married, all widows remarried, and divorce was rare. Today, many Widows remain single, and young, unmarried mothers are Common. Marriage rules are less often obeyed, but they still have considerable force and transgressors are physically punished. Traditionally, men could not marry for at least a decade after their first initiatory rites, which occurred around age 16-17, but today men in their early twenties are marrying, and far fewer betrothals result in marriage.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally, the commensal unit was the nuclear or polygynous family and this remains largely the case. Most people camp near close relatives and there is a great deal of visiting and casual eating at the camps or houses of others. Generosity and sharing remain prime values and most households provide food and shelter for a shifting number and range of relatives.

Inheritance . Material possessions were minimal, and were generally buried with a person upon death; today, they are burned or given away to distant relatives, and houses, or areas surrounding the deceased's camp, are vacated for months or years at a time following a death.

Socialization. Infants and children are raised by parents, siblings and other close coresident relatives; grandparents typically play an important role as socializers. Children tend to be greatly indulged by adults and can always get money and food from a wide range of relatives. Freed from the necessity of observing kinship rules, they spend much time at play in large groups. Traditionally, they spent more time with women, whom they accompanied on food-gathering expeditions. Today, most attend school from the age of 5 or 6, but this requirement is frequently breached. At the onset of the teenage years, the fortunes of boys and girls begin to diverge dramatically. The transition of girls into wives and mothers is unmarked by ritual, whereas boys enter upon a protracted and ritually highly elaborated process that transforms them into adults. This culturally very important transition takes about 15 years from the first physical operations, such as nose piercing, to the final stages preceding first marriage, which occurs in the late twenties and marks the young man as socially adult.

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