A cross-cultural study of female initiation rites

American Anthropologist Vol/Iss. 65 Published In Pages: 837-853
By Brown, Judith K.


This article discusses initiation rites for girls. Specifically explored are the reasons why the ceremonies are observed in some societies and omitted in others and what the variations between societies demonstrates.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
World Ethnographic Sample (WES)

Hypotheses (8)

Societies in which girls remain in the domestic unit with their mothers 50 percent or more (matirlocal or bilocal) are positively associated with presence of female initiation rites (840)Supported
Societies with patrilocal residence and exclusive mother-infant sleeping will be positively associated with female initiation rites involving extreme pain.Supported
Societies with male initiation involving both genital operation and isolation are positively associated with painful initiation rites for females.Supported
Female contribution to subsistence is positively associated with presence of female initiation rites (849)Supported
"Female initiation rites will occur in those societies in which the young girl continues to reside in the home of her mother after marriage" (841)UNKNOWN
"In societies practicing patrilocal residence, in which there is also an exclusive mother-infant sleeping arrangement, female initiation rites will subject the initiate to extreme pain in the form of a genital operation or extensive tattooing" (843)UNKNOWN
"If one limits the definition of male initiation rites to only those ceremonies characterized by both a genital operation and seclusion, a very strong relationship emerges between these male rites and those female initiation ceremonies which [cause pain to initiate]" (845)UNKNOWN
"When women make a notable contribution to the subsistence activities of their society, female initiation rites are celebrated to assure the competence of the young girl" (849)UNKNOWN

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:Kate Cummings Jessie Cohen