Husband Wife Sleeping Arrangements

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Husband-wife sleeping arrangements also differ dramatically from one place to the next. Spouses may sleep next to each other, or in the same room but in different beds. Some married couples sleep in the same house but in different rooms, while some sleep in separate houses altogether. A New Mexican Zuni couple sleep in their own room alone. If they have a baby, the infant will sleep with them, but in a cradleboard that is placed near the mother (Stevenson, 1901-1902). Among the Kwoma of New Guinea, the entire family sleeps together in the same room. But each spouse has a separate bark slab on which to sleep, as spouses would be ashamed to be found in the same bed (Whiting, 1941). In Oceania, an entire Pukapuka family may sleep in the same bed in the sleeping house if there is only one mosquito net. Otherwise, everyone sleeps in same house but under different nets (Beaglehole & Beaglehole, 1938).

A husband and wife among the Manus of Oceania sleep apart and, indeed, the Manus like it best when a family has two children, one to sleep with the father on one side of the house and one to sleep with the mother on the other side (Mead, 1930). Men and women among the Maria Gond of India sleep in separate quarters. A woman and her grown daughters sleep in the angadi, which also doubles as a kitchen. Her husband lives and sleeps in the agha. A boy who is still too young to stay in the bachelors' house may also sleep in the agha (Grigson, 1949). Among the Azande of Zaire, everyone has his or her own hut and sleeps there. A small child will sleep with the mother (Baxter & Butt, 1953).

Where marriages are monogamous, a couple are very likely to sleep in the same room. Ninety-four percent of a sample of 116 monogamous societies have same-room sleeping arrangements for spouses (Broude & Greene, 1983). However, such a sleeping arrangement does not guarantee a husband and wife privacy. First, the couple may share sleeping quarters. Sleeping companions may range from only small infants to all prepubescent children, to all nuclear family members who are not themselves married. In 6% of a sample of 95 societies, a husband and wife sleep with their infants, in 15% they sleep with all prepubescent children, and in 32% at least older unmarried family members also sleep in the same room as their mother and father (Broude & Greene, 1983). Second, partners who share the same room may not sleep in the same bed. In at least 41% of the 116 monogamous societies where spouses sleep in the same room, they also share the same bed or blanket or use adjacent sleeping places. But in at least 13% of these cultures, a husband and wife do not sleep in close proximity even though they are in the same room. Rather, spouses sleep in different beds, different hammocks, different sections of the room, or the like (Broude & Greene, 1983).

Husbands and wives are most likely to sleep apart where marriages are polygynous. Sometimes, cowives have their own houses and the husband either has lodgings of his own or rotates between wives. Spouses may also sleep apart when a society has men's houses, that is, separate structures where only men congregate and where they may also sometimes sleep. Husbands and wives also tend to sleep apart when social institutions favor the segregation of the sexes more generally. In some societies, spouses are expected to sleep apart as long as there is an infant sleeping with the mother. This arrangement can last for some years.

Sleeping arrangements are also related to climate. Husbands and wives predictably sleep together in colder climates, where the temperature falls below 50 °F in the winter, and apart where the weather is mild or warm for the entire year. Interestingly, temperature also predicts where a baby will sleep, so that infants sleep with the mother in warmer climates but in their own crib, cradle, or sleeping bag where the climate is cooler. The association between ambient temperature and sleeping may reflect a pragmatic way of trying to achieve temperature control. Adults will benefit from the body warmth of the partner when sleeping together in colder climates, and babies will be kept warmest if sleeping in their own bed, especially as the sleeping schedule of a baby does not coincide with that of its parents (Whiting, 1969).

Husband-wife sleeping arrangements are predictably associated with other aspects of married life. Where couples sleep together, they also eat and spend their leisure time together and men's houses tend to be absent. Where they sleep apart, a husband and wife also eat and spend their leisure time apart and men's houses tend to be present (Broude, 1983).

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