Tuvalu - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Polygyny was suppressed by missionization, and present-day attitudes concerning marriage, sexuality, and family obligation are heavily influenced by Christianity. Marriage is one of the most important rites of passage in Tuvaluan culture, since it legitimizes children and establishes links of kinship in relation to land rights. Divorce is comparatively rare. All those who descend from a recognized ancestral sibling set and have rights in its estate are obliged to provide food and labor for each other's marriage celebrations. Not to do so is tantamount to a rupture of relations. Hence, contributions come from the cognatic kindreds of all four parents of the marrying couple, in the form of appropriate kinds of labor, the provision of food at specific times, and the exchange of gifts (especially pandanus mats, clothes, and tobacco). Such reciprocity often acquires a competitive edge.

Domestic Unit. Marriage is seen as establishing a new economic unit—a nuclear family usually living virilocally (though sometimes with the bride's parents until after the first child is born). It is this group that provides the core of any domestic unit. Extended families are not commonly residential units. Children are often redistributed among related families by different levels of adoption. In this way, grandparents or childless siblings may maintain multigenerational domestic units.

Socialization. Mothers are infants' primary care givers, but a wide range of kin may be mobilized if necessary. Children, especially girls, are involved in the rearing of younger siblings. Physical punishment is used but it is rarely severe, with amicable relations restored almost immediately. Shaming and peer pressure generally prove more potent sanctions.

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