Mountain Arapesh - Marriage and Family

Marriage. The Arapesh girl was betrothed between the ages of about 6 and 10 to a husband a few years her senior. According to Mead, sometime before the appearance of her secondary sexual characteristics she moved to his hamlet to be "fed and grown .. . Until she becomes one of them." Marriage was proscribed within one's own lineage and with those from which one's lineage had either given or received women in the preceding three generations. Marriage involved bride-wealth payments and initiated a relationship in which shell valuables and raw meat moved from the groom's to the bride's descent group at the births, woundings, and deaths of their children. According to Mead, "for one marriage that fails .. . the great majority succeed"; divorces, when they occurred, were engineered as "abductions" of the wife. A preference was expressed for "true" or "near" sister exchange, but only about 4 percent of Alitoa-locality marriages were real sister exchanges. Marriage was virilocal, with many women marrying beyond the locality (55 percent in Alitoa), usually towards the sea. Polygyny was pervasive: sixteen of the forty-two households in Alitoa locality were polygynous. Men with more than one wife benefited in a multitude of political, Economic, and social ways, but polygyny resulted most Commonly from the levirate.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear, frequently polygynous, Family formed the basic household, with the father's parents, unmarried siblings, and sons' betrotheds the most common additions. This group averaged five individuals, with a range of about two to nine, and occupied either an entire hamlet or several adjacent houses in a hamlet.

Inheritance. Individuals owned whatever they had made, purchased, or been given, and they could dispose of it as they wished. Some clans owned ginyau, or traditional heirlooms, but it is unclear how these items were inherited.

Socialization. Although mothers devoted more time to child rearing than fathers, both parents delighted in the task. As the child grew older, he or she often left the parental home to stay awhile with other relatives, and around the age of 7 or 8, girls went to live with and be raised by their betrothed's kin. Gentleness, docility, responsiveness, and cooperativeness were the cardinal virtues that the socialization process sought to instill.

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