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Matrifocality

  • By: Kinitra D. Brooks
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

Matrifocality is a descriptor of an anthropological term, matrifocal, and literally means “mother focused.” The term most often describes a kinship system that is matriarchal or female-headed in nature, e.g., the matrifocal family. Matrifocal families are characteristic of several cultures, including the Javanese, the Igbo of West Africa, and the Mescalero Apaches. Still, its most mainstream Western use is in describing the families of African Americans and other cultures of the African diaspora, most especially those from lower socioeconomic classes. It has a noted history of being used to describe the so-called social pathologies of these specific communities.

Matrifocality emerges as a topic of debate because its very nature openly challenges the Western normality of the nuclear family. Though it has a pejorative history because ...

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