Murik - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage among the Murik is best characterized as brittle monogamy that eventually stabilizes around parenting responsibilities. There is no ritual to mark a marriage, but assent of parents and assurance of appropriate genealogical distance are important. The rule of exogamy is that spouses should be at least third cousins, though occasional exceptions occur, usually due to confusion over adoptive ties. The Murik say they formerly practiced sister-exchange marriage and never paid bride-wealth. Marriage to outsiders is considered acceptable, even advantageous, as it establishes kin obligations that may be exploited for trade purposes. There is customarily bride-service of several years, during which ideally the son-in-law builds a new house for his wife's parents. Then the couple may reside where they choose. Women say they prefer to live near their mother and sisters, while men say that they have better access to resources when living near their Father and brothers. Married children may always move back to the parental household in case of conflict or divorce. The terms of divorce are settled among the descent groups of the marriage partners.

Domestic Unit. Married couples are responsible for the maintenance of their own nuclear families, but the unit of production is the sibling group. Adult siblings and their spouses cooperate in child care, food processing, trade, and daily exchange of foodstuffs, canoes, and fishing equipment.

Inheritance. Inheritance may be claimed through the Father and/or mother and follows a rule of primogeniture within sibling groups. A firstborn sibling legitimates his or her position of ownership, responsibility, and leadership through work. He or she may be displaced by an ambitious younger sibling who must ritually retire older siblings in sequence. There is a strong preference for inheritance from father to son, but mother-son and father-daughter inheritance are not unusual.

Socialization. Children are encouraged to be independent and to take initiative. There is a low demand for obedience but a high expectation that older children, especially firstborns, assume responsibility for and indulge younger siblings. Classificatory mother's brothers and father's sisters spontaneously celebrate first achievements. These same ritual actors encourage social competence in children by publicly mocking their faux pas.

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