Each subtribe consists of several hamlets, containing households with hereditary property rights in the hamlet's land. Each hamlet contains a male ceremonial house as its focal point. All of the adult males in a hamlet are members of the same patrilineal sib, but the hamlets of each sib are not contiguous, so that the sibs are scattered about in each subtribe territory. Each sib claims descent from a mythical totem ancestor, and each sib is further subdivided into lineages claiming descent from a legendary hero. Within a hamlet, members of the same lineage will typically build their houses adjacent to each other. Within a lineage, descendants of a common paternal grandfather will be especially close, and sons will live adjacent to or with their father.
The Kwoma language is in the Sepik-Ramu language phylum, and their kinship system is of the Omaha type. The political system is acephalous and relatively egalitarian, though prestige is accorded senior men who have taken a head in warfare; these men hold high positions in religious cults and often have more than one wife. In the resolution of legal disputes, however, all males past puberty preside and have an equal voice in the final decision. The sexual division of labor is such that both males and females work in the extraction of sago flour, and each sex has specified tasks in the gardens, but only males hunt and build houses, and only females fish. Most fish is obtained through trade, with females exchanging sago flour for fish with members of river tribes on periodic market days, occurring once or twice a week.
John Whiting's ethnography of the Kwoma, based on fieldwork conducted in 1936, was a groundbreaking effort to describe the socialization of children in a traditional, non-Western culture.