The role of the aged in primitive society

Yale University Press New Haven Published In Pages: ??
By Simmons, Leo W.


Prestige of the aged is negatively correlated with severe climate and impermanent residence. It is positively correlated for aged men and women where they have property rights and influence in government. Aged women enjoy more prestige in hunting-gathering and fishing societies and in societies where matrilineal family organization prevails. Aged men have high prestige where the food supply is constant, where family organization type is patrilineal, in herding and framing societies, and where they control secret societies for the initiation of the young (79, 80)


Test NameSupportSignificanceCoefficientTail

Related Hypotheses

Main AuthorHypothesis
Simmons, Leo W.Aged women have tended to acquire property rights in simple societies and within matrilineal types of family organization. Aged men have tended to gain greatest control of property in more complex societies and within patrilineal family organization (49)
Simmons, Leo W.Participation by the aged in general activities is dependent upon climate, permanency of residence, basic maintenance activities and family organization. The opportunity of the aged to participate in subsistence activities increases among herders and agriculturalists. Aged males are more likely to contribute to infant and child care in matriarchal societies. Midwifery is practiced by aged women regardless of cultural determinants (102, 103, 104)
Simmons, Leo W.Domination by old men over family affairs and a corresponding enhancement of their security are accompanied by more complex types of maintenance, a shift from matrilineal to patrilineal descent, and elaboration of government, laws, property rights, and religion (213)
Simmons, Leo W."Finally, with advancing economy, greater complexity and integration of social organization, and with a general improvement in societal stability the aged have tended to enjoy a steadily rising enhancement of status in civil and political affairs" (130)
Simmons, Leo W.The aged of either sex, with some preference for males, have regularly been in demand as sources of information and experience, especially where no better means of preservation and transmission of knowledge is available. They are particularly active as priests and shamans. Variables such as climate, residence, stage of maintenance and family system exercise no marked influence on these special prerogatives of the aged (175)