Ache - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Ache marriages are arranged only by the principal parties, with parents and close kin having little or no say in the matter. Siblings, first cousins (both types), and individuals with particular ritual relationships are not allowed to marry. No prescriptive marriage rules exist. First marriage traditionally took place at about age 14 for women and 19 for men. Not infrequently there was great age disparity between the partners, with young women marrying men 40 years older than themselves on occasion, and men occasionally marrying women 20 years older than themselves. Marriages generally did not last long, and were interspersed with short romances in which one spouse might temporarily desert for a few days or weeks. Postreproductive women report a mean of thirteen spouses in a lifetime. However, marriages did tend to become more stable after two or more children were born to the couple. Between 5 to 10 percent of all marriages were polygynous, but no man ever had more than two wives simultaneously. A very low level of polyandry was also reported (less than 1 percent of marriages). No marriage or divorce ceremonies are performed. Generally, the man simply moves to the woman's hearth if he is young, or brings her to his if he is older and powerful. Postmarital residence is strongly matrilocal for young couples but bilocal for older couples. At the current reservations marriages are more stable than in precontact times and are generally between individuals closely matched in age.

Domestic Unit. Precontact Ache lived in small camps, which, because of widespread cooperative foraging and food sharing, were to some extent units of production and consumption. Nevertheless, individual nuclear families were the most important domestic unit, with adult sib sets sometimes important when they coresided. Reservation Ache emphasize the nuclear family more strongly, but sibling sets are also important units. Food sharing is now kin based, and small reciprocity networks have developed within the reservation.

Inheritance. The Ache have no rules of inheritance and nothing to inherit.

Socialization. The most important general social rule is to be a "good giver," or generous. Children are taught at a very young age to share part of all the food they receive. Child rearing is very permissive at early ages, and young children are very spoiled by Western standards. Older children are surprisingly well behaved and obedient. Children spend a good deal of time visiting other households without their parents. All overt expressions of hostility are discouraged; however, very young children are often encouraged to hit older children and adults when they are angry. When they calm down they are met by hysterical laughter and perhaps learn to be ashamed of publicly expressing their aggression. Reservation Ache strongly encourage their children to attend school, which also serves as a free day-care center.

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