Courtship and Marriage

During their teens, girls and boys begin courting. This often begins with a boy sending a go-between, such as his sister, to let the girl know he likes her. If he receives a positive response, they will sneak off at night for a sexual rendezvous. If they like each other enough, they begin living together and are then considered married. Sometimes the young man will need to talk to the young woman's parents and both males and females seek parental approval. Parents rarely object strongly and a couple can ignore their parents' wishes if they choose to. Good hunters find it easy to get married because women's parents want them as sons-in-law and encourage them to move to their camp and marry their daughter. Occasionally, parents will object to their daughter marrying a man if he has a reputation as a bad hunter and honey forager and if he sleeps around too much.

Age at first marriage is 17 or 18 for females and 19 or 20 for males. Median age at first reproduction is 19 (N. Blurton Jones, personal communication). Women experience far fewer menses than American women since they are usually pregnant or nursing an infant and thus less likely to be ovulating. One is not supposed to marry anyone who shares 12.5% or more of one's genes (parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, half-sibs, first cousins). However, as with the few other rules the Hadza have, this is sometimes ignored and one man married his granddaughter with no repercussions. The practice of the levirate is common. When a man dies, his brother, especially if unmarried, often marries his widow and takes on his children.

There is no overt polyandry, and in fact, when some young woman has two male suitors at the same time, it is seen as a problem that affects everyone. A meeting may be called to tell the woman to choose one because there is a danger that one man may kill the other. Many women say that polygyny is acceptable, even if their husband wants a second wife; however, when women catch their husbands pursuing another woman they get mad and yell and throw things at them. Only about 4% of marriages are polygynous and these usually last only a year or two. Divorce is fairly common, especially in the first few years (Blurton Jones et al., 2000), and serial monogamy is the rule.

About 5% of women marry non-Hadza men. However, many of these return to live in a Hadza camp and bring any children from that marriage with them. They appear to experience little if any stigma. The reason they return, and perhaps why there is not more female exogamy, may be because Hadza women cannot put up with the sort of treatment they get from non-Hadza men, where they are forced to work long hours and may be beaten, and not just on the rare occasion when their husband is drunk, as with Hadza men.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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