Woleai - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Today monogamy is the most common form of marriage, although traditionally polygamy was permitted. One's mother's brother arranges or has the power to veto a first marriage. Ritually, only a small exchange of food Between the lineages marks the occasion. Clan exogamy is preferred and subclan exogamy enforced. Postmarital residence is matrilocal. Divorce and remarriage were very common until conversion to Christianity in the 1950s.

Domestic Unit. Households average six to eight members. Residents share meals within or near the estate's cookhouse. The typical estate group includes an old woman (or set of sisters), her/their daughters, unmarried sons, and in-marrying husbands. Unmarried adult males do not sleep at the estate but in the men's house or one of the canoe houses.

Inheritance. Since land, canoes, and houses are collectively owned by lineages, issues of inheritance seldom arise. When they do, property is transmitted matrilineally first within the lineage, then within the subclan, and finally within the clan. Gender-specific personal possessions such as female weaving and gardening tools or male fishing equipment are usually passed from mother to daughter or father to son.

Socialization. All members of a household have responsibilities for the care of infants and young children. Adoption is extremely common, not only by childless couples but also by those with their own children. Children have great freedom to move about the island and between households. Only rarely are they punished, most usually if caught fighting with other children. For that purpose a mother's brother may be called to lecture them or administer some form of mild physical punishment, such as ear flicking. As they approach puberty socialization emphasizes conduct considered appropriate to each sex. Boys are encouraged to spend more time in the canoe house while girls are told to remain in the vicinity of the dwellings and interior gardens. Puberty ceremonies are held for girls at first menses and involve isolation in the Village menstrual house for several weeks and a shift in dress to an adult woman's woven skirt.

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