Tonga - Marriage and the Family

Marriage. Monogamy was and is the norm in Tonga, but in traditional times multiple marriages were not uncommon and marriage dissolutions and subsequent remarriages often occurred.

Domestic Unit. Traditionally, a wife became part of her husband's lineage upon marriage and set up residence in the territory of her husband's ha'a or in the area of a smaller kindred group ( kainga). Large families were the rule in Tonga, and children were frequently adopted by individuals. The extended family was—and continues to be—an important organizing group in Tonga.

Inheritance. Currently there are strict rules of male primogeniture in Tonga, but in traditional times adopted and fictive kin could inherit various titles and possessions. Much of traditional Tongan consensus and flexibility was eliminated with the introduction of Tongan law codes and the constitution of 1875.

Socialization. That which occurs in Tonga in day-to-day existence is fakatonga, or the Tongan way of life or doing things; Tongans have continuously adapted to changing environmental situations to the best of their abilities. The most important agents of socialization in traditional Tonga were members within the immediate family and then individuals of the ha'a: parents, siblings, and near relations were key. In contemporary Tonga, in addition to family relations, criteria such as religious affiliation, educational background, and whether one is of the nopele class or "commoner" class contribute to day-to-day socialization activities. Perhaps the most important expression of Tongan reality is the concept of ' ofa , literally "to love" or have a fondness towards an Individual; the phrase ' ofa atu (literally, "love to you") can be heard on many important ceremonial occasions.

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