Sociology Index


Matrilineal societies are societies in which descent is traced through mothers rather than through fathers. In matrilineal societies, property is often passed from mothers to daughters and the custom of matrilocal residence may be practiced. Patrilineal descent is traced through fathers rather than through mothers. Matrilineage is sometimes associated with polyandry or group marriage where women have a variety of sexual partners and lines of male descent are uncertain.

In matrilineal societies, the descendants of men are their sister's children and not their own, who belong to their mother's matrilineage. Matrilineal societies existed in ancient times and matrilineal descent was recognised. Matrilineal descent is not the mirror image of patrilineal descent. Matrilineal societies differ from both patrilineal and bilateral societies in that the institution of marriage tends to be, relatively weak (Schneider and Gough 1961, Goode 1963).

In a gerontocratic matrilineal society, women's influence and prestige tended to increase with age and were usually expressed in informal settings, although there were offices of formalised informality such as "mothers" of matrilineages.

Matriliny required the subordination of marriage and conjugal duties to loyalty to and participation in the descent group. This, combined with economic activities, farming, artisan work, and trading, gave women considerable independence.

Women had prestige in the matrilineal home town, where black stools symbolised the "seat of power." (Bartle). 

In a matrilineal society, women generally have a greater autonomy in terms of sexuality and reproduction than their counterparts in male dominated societies. The woman in a matrilineal society represents the clan and her children carry on the name of her clan.

Land Inheritance and Schooling in Matrilineal Societies: Evidence from Sumatra - Agnes R. Quisumbing, and Keijiro Otsuka
The implications of the shift from communal to individualized tenure on the distribution of land and schooling between sons and daughters in matrilineal societies. The inheritance system is evolving from a strictly matrilineal system to a more egalitarian system. Sons and daughters inherit the type of land that is more intensive in their own work effort. The gender gap in schooling appears to be closing for the generation of younger children.

Gough, K. (1961) "The modern disintegration of matrilineal descent groups," in D. M. Schneider and K. Gough (eds.) Matrilineal Kinship, Berkeley, U. Calif., pp. 631-54 

Oppong, C. (1974) Marriage Among a Matrilineal Elite, Cambridge University Press.

Matrilineal Society in India - Dr. Madhumita Das.
At the global level, the existence of matrilineal society is found among the tribes of African countries, in some part of Southeast Asia and among three groups of India. Matrilineal Society is found among the Minangkabaus of West Sumatra, Indonesia. In Indian context, the matrilineal social system is found only among small pockets of south and northeast India. Matrilineal Society is found among the Nairs and Mappilles in Kerala. The tribal groups of Minicoy Island and the Khasis and the Garos of Meghalaya are the followers of matrilineal system. The matrilineal system of the African countries differs considerably from that of the Southeast Asian groups.
The Khasis of Meghalaya, generally follow the residential pattern known as “matrilocal residence”, where the husband resides with his wife's matrilineal kin. In other case couples settle down together in a new residence in and around his wife's maternal place, neolocal residence.
Methodology. A multivariate analysis has been undertaken to substantiate the findings from bivariate analysis and to find out the factors, which brought changes among the society. The term matriarchy or matriliny has become inseparably associated with the Khasi social organisation.