Miao - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Marriages generally require parental consent but are based on mutual attraction and choice. In the past, many communities had "youth houses" where unmarried young people could gather. Groups of young men traveled around to court girls in other villages. In the absence of parental consent, elopement was an alternative. Festivals and trips to periodic markets still provide an opportunity for young people to meet, engage in antiphonal singing and dancing, and establish new friendships. Since the 1950s, travel restrictions and state disapproval of premarital sexual behavior has increased the parental role in marriage arrangement. Marriages are monogamous. Marriage outside the dialect or language group is rare. Divorce and remarriages are permitted. Postmarital residence is usually in the man's home village but only the youngest son lives with his parents after his marriage, and in instances where there are no sons a family may bring in a son-in-law or an aged widow or widower might join her married daughter's household. In some areas, there is delayed transfer of the bride until after the birth of her first child, or the practice of starting out with residence with the bride's family.

Domestic Unit. The two-generation nuclear family is statistically the most common. Relations between spouses, and between parents and children, are more egalitarian than among the Han. Economic, social, and ritual ties are retained with natal kin. Visiting kinsfolk are welcome guests, and may come for extended visits.

Inheritance. At marriage, sons and daughters receive property and assistance in building a new house. Marriage portions previously included livestock as well as household goods, tools, jewelry, and cloth. The youngest son and his descendants inherit the parental house and remaining wealth. A couple without sons will live with a daughter, who stands as heir.

Socialization. Both parents are involved in child rearing. Verbal skills and work skills are valued. Children are expected to assist with work tasks from an early age. Some tasks, such as gathering firewood or caring for livestock, are not gender-linked, and both sexes are encouraged to take responsibility and act independantly. Mothers teach their daughters to spin and weave and to do batik and embroidery, and sons learn hunting skills from their fathers. Since the 1950s, most boys and some girls attend primary school. Relatively few continue on to middle school since this usually involves boarding schools far from their home communities.

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