To Zambians, helping family members is one of life's most important responsibilities. If an aunt, uncle, cousin or older sibling can afford to support a child's education, he or she will take responsibility for the child. In some ethnic groups, every close relative is considered a mother or father to a child. In most of Zambia's cultures, the family structure is matrilineal-the children belong to the mother's side of the family. In a few ethnic groups, such as the Tonga, the family structure is patrilineal. 

Zambians consider their children an investment in the future. Because the number of infant deaths is still high, most parents fear they will lose a child and tend to have large families. Although the government officially supports family planning, Zambia has one of the highest birth rates in the world.

In some parts of Zambia, when girls and boys reach adolescence, they are formally initiated into adulthood. In some communities, the men take the boys into seclusion for a month to teach them their family role as husband and provider. In the Luvale culture, this important initiation rite is called Mukanda. Traditionally, it involves male circumcision, but this practice is becoming less common. During the initiation of girls, women teach their daughters about sex, marriage and childrearing. 
  Did you know?
According to a Zambian proverb, "A single finger alone cannot kill a louse." It reminds people to cherish and support family, neighbours and friends. Happiness and success come from working together.
Before a couple can marry, the man must pay the bride's parents a lobola (bride price). The amount is usually paid in cattle, cash or a combination of the two. Men and women can choose their own partners, but both sets of parents must usually approve the match. Wedding celebrations can last several days. Guests bring gifts, and relatives help out. A feast is prepared, and everyone enjoys singing and dancing. 

In rural areas, men and women have sharply defined roles. Men fish or hunt, and perform heavy farming tasks. Women work on the farms, raise children, perform all household jobs and sell goods in the market. Women in rural Zambia traditionally have had a lower status than men.

In some villages, Zambians live in traditional circular homes built from a strong framework of sticks covered in dried mud. The pointed roofs are thatched with bundles of grass, carefully overlapped to keep the rain out. In other communities, people build square houses from handmade bricks and decorate their homes with wall paintings. In the cities, families may live in apartment buildings or cement block houses with tin roofs. Because of a shortage of affordable housing, shantytowns and slums have sprung up around most Zambian cities.