There are about a hundred distinct ethnic groups in Chad. Within these groups are ethnic subgroups, each with its own language and customs. Family lifestyles may differ greatly between these groups, although some practices are widespread.

The Gorane tribes live in the Sahara desert in northern Chad. Gorane families are small, consisting of parents, children and sometimes one or two other relatives. The clan is the most important unit of Gorane life. Each clan controls certain resources, such as palm groves or oases; members of other clans may not use these resources without permission.

A semi-nomadic Arab culture prevails in the Sahel region. Arabs make up one-third of the population. Their basic social unit is the kishimbet, a group related through the male line. The kishimbet is headed by an elder, known as the shaykh. Members of a kishimbet live near each other and follow the same routes during migration. Sometimes neighbouring kishimbets meet to discuss matters of mutual interest. Marriage between cousins is encouraged.

The people of southern Chad are known collectively as the Sara, but this term is used to describe a diverse group of tribes, each with its own language, history and customs. The basic social unit or clan of the Sara people is known variously as the qir ka, qin ka or qel ka, depending on the region. The members of each clan are the descendants of a common male ancestor.

   Did you know?
Families consider children to be insurance for their future and esteem those who have large families. When people die without having had children, they are said to have "died twice."
The Sara have important initiation rites to mark the passage from childhood to adulthood, especially for boys. The best-known ritual is the Yondo, which takes place when a boy is 8 to 10 years old. He must pass an extended period in the bush in the company of elders and his fellow initiates, learning tribal secrets. Women are generally not allowed to witness Yondo. Circumcision may be performed during the rite.

Women tend to marry when they are in their late teens. In some groups, it is considered acceptable for a man to have more than one wife. In most Muslim families, the groom's family pays a bride-price to the bride's family before the wedding, while in other groups, it is more common for the woman to bring a dowry to the marriage. The dowry may consist of money, household goods or cattle. In some northern tribes, marriage is traditionally accompanied by a ceremony that mimics the stealing of the bride from her family, who respond by ritual mourning.

   Did you know?
Scarification, the ritual application of scars on the faces of tribal members, is practised by many groups in Chad. Lines and other symbols are made on the faces of young men to mark them permanently as members of a particular tribe. Such markings are perceived as visually pleasing.