Family Essay

1146 WordsAug 15, 20155 Pages
Among all ethnic and caste groups, the most important social unit is the nuclear family--husband, wife, and unmarried children. Even when economic need causes several families (Sinhala, ge; Tamil, kudumbam) or generations to live together, each wife will maintain her own cooking place and prepare food for her own husband as a sign of the individuality of the nuclear family. Among all sections of the population, however, relatives of both the wife and the husband form an important social network that supports the nuclear family and encompasses the majority of its important social relations. The kindred (pavula, in Sinhala) of an individual often constitute the people with whom it is possible to eat or marry. Because of these customs, local Sinhalese society is highly fragmented, not only at the level of ethnic group or caste, but also at the level of the kindred. The kinship systems of Sri Lanka share with most of South Asia and the Middle East the institution of preferred cross cousin marriage. This means that the most acceptable person for a young man to marry is the daughter of his father's sister. The most suitable partner for a young woman is the son of her mother's brother. Parallel cousins--the son of the father's brother or the daughter of the mother's sister--tend to be improper marriage partners. There is a close and special relationship between children and their aunts or uncles, who may become their fathers- or mothers-in-law. Special kinship terminology exists in both Tamil and Sinhalese for relatives in preferred or prohibited marriage categories. In many villages, people spend their entire childhood with a clear knowledge of their future marriage plans and in close proximity to their future spouses. The ties between cross-cousins are so close in theory that persons marrying partners other than their crosscousins may include a special ritual in their

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