Sociology Index


Matrilineal Descent, Bilineal Descent, Kinship Structure, Unilineal Descent

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. Ancient societies are known to have recognised matrilineal 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 (like elders) had prestige in the matrilineal home town, where black stools symbolised the "seat of power." (Bartle). Patrilineality in patrilineal descent, also known as the male line or agnatic kinship, is a kinship system in which an individual's family membership derives through his or her father's lineage. Patrilineal descent involves the inheritance of property, rights, or titles by persons related through male kin.

Patrilineal descent gives priority to inheritance of a throne or fief to heirs descended from the original title holder through males only.