When does matriliny fail? The frequencies and causes of transitions to and from matriliny estimated from a de novo coding of a cross-cultural sample

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Vol/Iss. 374(1780) Royal Society Publishing Published In Pages: 1-15
By Shenk, Mary K., Begley, Ryan O., Nolin, David A., Swiatek, Andrew


Researchers looked at 180 of the 186 societies in the SCCS for changes over time in lineage systems. The goal was to estimate the frequency of transitions away from and to matriliny cross-culturally, as well as explore the potential causes of these patterns / transitions. The study focused on two overarching research questions: 1. How common are transitions away from matriliny and how often do ‘reverse transitions’ to matriliny occur? 2. What causes transitions to or from matriliny? Overall, the study found that transitions away from matriliny have been quite common within the time frames covered by the ethnographic samples available, while transitions from another system to matrility have been rare. In answering the second question, the researchers report the highest correlation is between subsistence transitions (towards pastoralism, intensive agriculture, or a market economy) and lineage transitions (away from matriliny) as well as between higher levels of social complexity (measured by stratification, slavery, and population size) and lineage transitions (away from matriliny).

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