Telefolmin - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Traditionally, marriage was by sister exchange accompanied by a small bride-wealth of shells matched by a return payment of pork. Marriages were ideally between fellow villagers, though intervillage marriages sometimes occurred. Divorce was relatively easy and frequent, with an attempt to allocate children equally to the mother and father after separation. There has been a progressive trend towards monetization of bride-wealth, while government policies forbidding coercion of brides have made sister exchange difficult to enforce. Contemporary marriages are less likely to have been arranged than in the past, often take place between Villages (with virilocal residence), and almost always include a bride-wealth ranging from several hundred to several thousand kina (one kina-approximately $1.50 U.S.) in value.

Domestic Unit. The domestic unit is a two-generation Nuclear family, usually allied with another such family to form a joint household; dwelling houses normally have two hearths, one for each family. The component families of a joint Household are most often related through brother-sister or brother-brother links. Despite common residence, the families of a joint household have separate sets of land rights and form independent productive units.

Inheritance. Rights to garden sites are bilaterally inherited, with an equal division between siblings of both sexes. Children may in principle inherit shell valuables and pigs, but these items tend to be dispersed to more distantly related claimants in the course of mortuary rites. No clear precedent has emerged for the inheritance of modern houses built of permanent materials.

Socialization. Early socialization is in the hands of mothers, although fathers and elder siblings (especially sisters) also play a role in caring for small children. Girls grow into adult roles early. Traditionally, boys underwent a series of initiations from the age of about 7 until their late twenties; these initiations had been discontinued for some time, but they were revived in the late 1980s. Since the 1970s a number of children attend public schools, and there are signs of increasing differentiation between school-educated Telefolmin and others.

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