Matrilineal descent in cross-cultural perspective

Matrilineal Kinship University of California Press Berkeley Published In Pages: 655-727
By Aberle, David F.


This chapter explores and tests some propositions about matrilineal societies. Supplementary to that discussion, the author also explores the problems of method associated with the use of coded data on large samples of cultures.


Sample Used Coded Data Comment
World Ethnographic Sample (WES)

Hypotheses (15)

". . . high stratification of freeman is associated with hereditary slavery, and low stratification with the absence of slavery" (694)Supported
"Matrilineal systems are relatively more frequent in the 'dominant horticulture' category than either bilateral or patrilineal systems, at high levels of stratification. They are more commonly in the 'dominant horticulture' category than patrilineal systems at low levels; there is no significant difference between matrilineal and bilateral systems at this level" (698)Supported
"If we compare 'dominant horticulture' with all [other subsistence types], we find that matrilineal systems tend to be found significantly more often in this category than either patrilineal or bilateral systems" (676)Supported
"[If political integration is dichotomized into systems with authoritative regulation above the community level and systems at or below the community level] it is possible to see a regular progression among the systems with any agricultural base. As we go from 'plough' agriculture to 'African horticulture,' and thence to 'dominant horticulture' and 'other horticulture,' the percentage of cases at or below the community level rises regularly . . ." (681)Supported
"Both matrilineal and patrilineal systems tend to cluster at the 'minimal state' level by comparison with bilateral systems, which tend to appear at the extremes of political scope" (684)Supported
". . . as [the] size of political unit increases, the percentage of dominantly horticultural matrilineal systems (ignoring extraction) remains relatively constant, at about 66 to 75 percent . . ." (691)Supported
"Stratification shows a significant, strong over-all association with size of political unit, with a strong tendency for complex stratification to be associated with 'states' and hereditary aristocracy with 'little states'" (694)Supported
". . . stratification is closely connected with subsistence type. . . . 'Plough agriculture' shows the highest stratification, 'African horticulture' next, 'dominant horticulture' next, and 'other horticulture' next, in the agricultural series. 'Pastoralism' shows a level intermediate between 'plough agriculture' and 'African horticulture,' somewhat similar to its position in table 17-5. 'New World pastoralism' and 'extraction' bring up the bottom of the list" (694, 698)Supported
[Descent is related] ". . . to stratification. . . . Matrilineal systems tend to have hereditary, rather than complex stratification to a greater degree than . . . patrilineal and bilateral systems" (698)Supported
"[There is] a highly significant association between lateral succession to the headman's position and matriliny, and lineal succession and patriliny" (707)Supported
"By comparison with bifurcate collateral terminology, bifurcate collateral terminology, bifurcate merging terminology tends to be associated with matriliny. . . . By comparison with derivative bifurcate merging terminology, it is also associated with matriliny . . ." (712)Supported
"We would expect matrilineal systems to be more frequent among the non-exogamous communities . . . And rarer among exogamous local untis . . ." (715)Supported
[In matrilineal systems] "The relationship of sororal and limited sororal polygyny with matrilocality, and of general and non-sororal polygyny with virilocality is strong and significant. . . . Also . . . the association of general and non-sororal polygyny with avunculocality and sororal and limited sororal polygyny is even stronger" (719)Supported
[In matrilineal systems there is a] ". . . strong association of monogamy with matrilocality, as compared with other forms of marriage and other forms of residence" (719)Supported
[There is] " . . . a relationship between residence and stratification in matrilineal systems. . . . Matrilocality is associated with minimal stratification and avunculocality with maximal stratification" (719)Supported

Documents and Hypotheses Filed By:mas Jessie Cohen