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unfortunate because of her family’s loss of face, bride price, and social relationships with the other clans. When she dies, she is buried quickly and without ceremony after her death.  A women without a husband is ‘worthless’, hence, she is not respected within the community.  Therefore, the Hmong girls marry as soon as possible. The Hmong men tend to marry younger women.  Among the Hmong, most boys are married between the ages of 17 and 20, and common marriage for girls is between the ages of 15 and 18.  Some girls are married at the age of 13 or 14 and bear one or several children before the age of 20.

Rules of marriage

1. Clan exogamy is the most important rule of marriage.  A clan consists of a number of families claiming a common ancestor. The Hmong society is organized into patrilineal clans by surname groups.  Marriage within the clan is not allowed. Marriage is extremely important to strengthen ties of status and economic assistance between the clans and lineages.  When a man and woman are married, kinship relations are established between the members of the two related families and clans.  The role of the wife is often central to kin-group relation.  Whether the kinship relation between clans runs smoothly or not, women play an essential role in it.

2. The rule of cross-cousin and maternal parallel cross-cousin marriage is found in many societies.  The  Hmong society is no exception. The Hmong parents practice cross-cousin marriage to strengthen the alliance between the two related families.  If a women’s daughter marries her brother’s son, this means she is sending her daughter to her natal clan.  In the past, cross-cousin and maternal parallel cross-cousin marriages were common because Hmong parents preferred the practice and young people, especially girls, had no chance of finding acceptable marriage partners in the limited population within a given area.  However, today this practice has been largely discarded by the educated younger generation, since they have learnt about genetics in school and now have more choices in marriage.  

The Hmong like to choose a partner within their society itself.  One reason is they believe that their blood is better than that of others.  Another reason is they worry that the couple might not live happily because of cultural differences if marry into other ethnic groups.  In terms of marriage from the other ethnic groups, Yao people are seen as a good choice in marriage because there are similaraties in language and culture between the Hmong and the Yao.  In the past, the Hmong rarely married the non-Hmong, although marriage with the non-Hmong was permitted.  Nowadays, with more and more communication by the Hmong with lowland and people overseas,  the propensity to marry non-Hmong might be expected to increase.  There are a few cases in the Hmong villages whereby Hmong women were married to Thai, Japanese, and American men.  Hmong parents may also approve of their children marrying someone from another country as well as marrying non-Hmong.  However, marriage within Hmong society is still common and preferred.

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