Tikopia - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Modern Tikopia marriage is solemnized by a Religious service in a Christian church. But traditionally it was initiated by elopement or abduction of a woman from her Father's house to that of her chosen or self-elected husband. Nowadays, as formerly, the crux of the marriage arrangement is an elaborate series of exchanges of food and other property between the lineages of bride and groom, occupying several days. The bride commonly goes to live with her husband, either in his parents' house or in a new dwelling adjacent to theirs. Entry into the married state is marked by assumption of a new name, often that of the dwelling where they live. So if they reside in the house "Nukuora," the husband is known as Pa (Mr.) Nukuora, the wife as Nau (Mrs.) Nukuora. Traditionally, polygyny was permissible, and men of rank did often have more than one wife. No woman could have more than one husband, however. Marriages seem to have been fairly stable. Divorce was rare and adultery by married women was not common, in contrast to the sexual freedom of both sexes before marriage. Infidelity by married men did occur, but if it came to the wife's notice it often seems to have elicited a violent reaction from her.

Domestic Unit. The core of a Tikopia domestic unit is a husband, wife, and children, but ordinarily a household is apt to contain additional kin—an elderly widowed mother, an unmarried sister or brother, a youth or girl fostered from an allied kin group. Occasionally two brothers and their families share accommodations, forming a multiple-family Household. Adjacent, kin-related domestic units may share in the preparation of meals, using a common oven house.

Inheritance. Major property (e.g., land, canoes, houses, and house sites) is inherited patrilineally, with the eldest son acting as the main controller and his siblings sharing in rights of use and residence. But sometimes after a man's death his sons may dispute and decide to split the landed property. Smaller items, such as a wooden headrest or shell ornament, may be allocated personally to specific kin by a man before his death.

Socialization. Social control by public opinion has been strong in Tikopia. Although raised permissively, children are very aware of the discipline of their parents and are also trained much by other kin and by peer-group association. Formerly, the educational process was smooth and uninterrupted from birth to maturity; nowadays many children go abroad to school for a period and are exposed to a range of alien influences.

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