Sociology Index


Bilineal descent is system of family descent where blood links and rights of inheritance through both male and female ancestors are of equal importance. Bilineal descent is system is tracing kinship structure through both parents. The most common form is bilateral descent. A system of tracing descent through both the mother’s and father’s sides of the family.

A cloned child has unilineal descent, not bilineal descent; he or she is genetically kin to only one progenitor. What is more, the genetic kinship is near-total: the cloned child is not genetically unique, but shares almost completely the genetic endowment of the "original" progenitor.

In most societies where kinship connections are important, the rules of descent affiliate individuals with different sets of kin. Descent concerns the tracing of relationships through succeeding generations, i.e., who has descended from whom.

The Daughters of the American Revolution is a bilineal descent category. The descendants of Abraham Lincoln may be defined as a bilineal descent category.

The Yoko of southeastern Nigeria are an example of a society with bilineal descent. Their important portable property, including livestock and money, are inherited matrilineally. Fixed property, such as farm plots, pass down through the patrilinal line as do rights to trees and other forest products. It is not surprising that they have patrilineally inherited obligations to cooperate in cultivating their fields. Obligations to perform funerals and pay bride price for sons are inherited through the matrilineal line.

The Toda of southern India also follow bilineal descent. Their property is inherited patrilineally and ritualistic privileges related to funerals are inherited matrilineally.

Double or Duo lineal or Bilineal Descent is a form of unilineal descent which combines both patrilines and matrilines.

In India we generally find the patrilineal descent and matrilineal descent systems. Of the two, patrilineal descent system is more common. Patrilineal descent is more prevalent in North India. Among the tribals, many tribes such as Santhals or Mundas have the patrilineal system. Interestingly the Todas who practice polyandry too have a patrilineal system. 

Tribes such as the Khasis and Garos of North-East have the matrilineal descent system. The Nayars of Kerala are a good example of matrilineal descent.

Unilineal descent groups often take the form of lineages and clans. Lineage is a set of kin, whose members trace their descent from a common ancestor through known links. A clan is often composed of related lineages. A clan is a set of kins who believe that they have descended from a common ancestor but cannot specify the genealogical links with her or him. - Extract from: Amit Kumar Sharma, NCERT XII Structure Of Indian Society.

In matrilineal descent, descent is traced through mothers rather than through fathers. Matrilineal societies, property is often passed from mothers to daughters and the custom of matrilocal residence may be practiced.

Patrilineal Descent is a system in which family descent is reckoned through the blood links of males. Typically names and property follow the male line of descent. A man's descendants are his own children, and women are little recognized as ancestors.

In matrilineal societies, the descendants of men are their sister's children and not their own, who belong to their mother's matrilineage.

Matrilineage is sometimes associated with polyandry or group marriage where women have a variety of sexual partners and lines of male descent are uncertain.

Bilineal Descent is practiced by approx. 33% of cultures.
Heritage Traced through percentage from both parents equally to child. Primarily found in foraging and industrial societies where society is more egalitarian and gender-equal. The residency of Bilineal Descent cultures are usually neo local - Which means the new offspring leave the nest to create a new home someplace else away from extended family. The most common household type for cultures practicing Bilineal Descent is nuclear or single-parent.