Tokelau - Marriage and Family



Marriage. Postmarital residence is uxorilocal or, as Tokelauans phrase it, "women stay and men go." Tokelauans assert that second cousins cannot marry, though in fact some have done so. The rule is that people who hold common rights to property do not marry. Since second cousins tend to belong to a common kin group, they are thus usually unmarriageable, as third or fourth cousins may also be. If such cousins do marry, then the property held in common is divided, and the rule is upheld: They are no longer kin. De facto unions are not tolerated in the villages and the majority of Marriages are village-endogamous.

Domestic Unit. The nature and composition of domestic units is not easy to define. Each focuses on a mature woman, married or widowed, who runs the household by directing the activities of others, especially younger women and children. It is not an exclusive production and consumption unit because its members work with various kin groups and receive goods and produce from several kin groups. It is the regular sleeping place of some members, but grown boys rarely sleep at home, children frequently sleep with other close kin, and visitors or a birth within the given household or a related one may precipitate a major shift. Households thus are variable and flexible in their composition, but because of the dense, open Village settlement it is well known where any person is at any given time.

Inheritance. When property is divided within a kin group it is divided in the names of the founders' children, either living or dead, in equitable shares. The actual division may entail considerable negotiation among spokespersons of the recipient groups, and once the initial division is made it is possible for recipients to redivide the property at the level of the subsequent generation.

Socialization. Infants are much indulged. They are weaned at about a year and a half, or as soon as the mother becomes pregnant again, and they take second place when a new infant appears. The interval between births is properly two years or longer, so each child has at least two years of indulgence. From an early age, children are directed to fetch and carry. The increasing range of these directed activities depends on their verbal skills, for messages accompany goods and must be transmitted accurately. Children are closely disciplined to do as they are told and follow instructions precisely. Misbehavior may be punished by any adult and punishment may be severe.

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