Kwaio Fosterage1


  • 1

    Research on which this paper is based was carried out on Malaita from December 1962 to November 1964 and in July and August 1966. Both trips were supported by the U.S. Public Health Service. In addition, analysis of Kwaio data has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, and University of California, Santa Cruz. I am greatly indebted to Jonathan Fifity for his partnership in this ethnographic venture.

    An earlier version of this paper was presented to a symposium on “Adoption in Eastern Oceania” at Santa Cruz, California, in March 1967. I am grateful to my colleagues at that meeting, and particularly to Vern Carroll, Daniel Crowl, Michael Lieber, and Harold Scheffler for helpful suggestions for revision. Finally, John Atkins suggested a complete overhaul of the original flow diagrams, and most of his suggestions are embodied in the final version.


Fosterage is one important possible outcome when parental death disrupts the family developmental cycle among the Kwaio of the Solomon Islands. A model of alternative sequences of possible events and decision-making principles, portrayed with flow diagrams, is outlined. The significance of fosterage in generating Kwaio social alignments is examined, and the implications of this approach for the study of social structure are discussed.