Ningerum - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriage with a matrilateral cross cousin is preferred, but only a few marriages are contracted between actual cross cousins. Most spouses are understood to be classificatory cross cousins, but a lack of detailed knowledge about relationships in the second and third ascending generations allows considerable flexibility. Of more importance in arranging marriages is a preference to marry into nearby households. Such marriages consolidate land holdings and existing alliances. Polygyny is accepted but was more common in the past. The most influential men had four or five wives at one time. Divorce is possible but extremely rare. In most Marriages there are strong emotional bonds between husbands and wives. Large bride-price payments are required. After a substantial initial payment, continuing bride-price installments are usually paid for the life of the marriage.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally, an extended family of up to thirty people lived as a cooperative domestic group. A Household usually consisted of 2 or 3 brothers together with their wives and children and a handful of other relatives. With the cessation of intergroup raids and with the formation of Villages, these extended family units are now smaller, often only a nuclear family and a few other individuals (e.g., a grandmother, foster children, and unmarried siblings). Increasingly, the nuclear family is the key domestic group, although there is always room to incorporate otherwise unattached kin, particularly orphans and young single adults.

Inheritance. Children inherit land primarily from their Father, but they retain some rights through their mother. Sago, breadfruit, and nut trees are usually divided up among the children by their owner before death or can be distributed among the heirs in the absence of oral instructions. Portable wealth is nearly always insufficient to cover death payments to the deceased's matrikin and creditors. Such debts are Inherited jointly by the deceased's adult sons and sometimes brothers (or husband if the deceased is a woman).

Socialization. Parents are generally permissive, scolding and occasionally threatening children who misbehave. Ghosts, spirits, and sorcerers are often mentioned to frighten young children. Up to the opening of the Ok Tedi copper mine there were few opportunities for public education.

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