Rapa - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Marriage is monogamous. Rapans express a slight preference for virilocality, but in actuality virilocal and uxorilocal residence occur with equal frequency. Cohabiting couples are often reluctant to marry formally, as this is a sign that they are shifting from the carefree life of youth to the sober responsibilities of adulthood. The decision to marry is frequently made upon the application of pressure by lay Officials of the church. Divorce is rare. Should a spouse die, the preferred remarriage is with the brother or sister of the decedent.

Domestic Unit. Households range from 2 to 15 members, with an average of 6.7. Rapans express a preference for extended family households because of greater sociability and economic efficiency. Largely because of interpersonal tensions that develop between constituent families in extended family households, however, the majority of households on the island consist of an elementary family. To improve their economic efficiency and enhance sociability, many elementary family households have formed themselves into work groups, each of which is composed of four to five households. One or two individuals from each household participate in the group, and the group as a whole works on a rotating schedule, devoting a day to each of its member households in turn. Some work groups are composed of neighboring Households regardless of kin ties between them, while others are based on kinship.

Inheritance. Property passes from both parents to all Children. Some gardens may be willed to individual children or foster children, but the usual pattern is to leave property jointly to children according to the rules of descent.

Socialization. Children are raised by their own or foster parents. In fosterage, a child ideally acquires the obligation to support his or her foster parents in their old age. The strength of this obligation depends on how much of a person's childhood was actually spent in the foster parents' home. From the age of 4 or 5 children make their own decisions as to where they will live, and often they move between the homes of their biological and foster parents. In any event, a person's legal status and inheritance rights continue to be reckoned through the biological parents. Couples with few or no biological offspring usually foster children of their more prolific close relatives.

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