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Matrilineal

  • By: Maria-Barbara Watson-Franke
  • In: Encyclopedia of Motherhood
  • Edited by: Andrea O'Reilly
  • Subject:Sociology of Gender, Parenting, Maternal Health

The practice of tracing one's ancestry through the mother is known as matrilineal descent. This means that women are structurally central to a society, and all its members acknowledge this fact as binding legal and ideological principles. Consequently, family dynamics and gender relationships differ markedly from those in patriarchal societies.

In matrilineal societies, children carry their mother's name, not the father's. The mother and her relatives determine the children's social and economic position in society, not the father, which makes both sexes women-defined beings. The strongest relationship is that between mothers and their children throughout their life span. The negative image of the “mama's boy” is unknown; instead, men's closeness to their mother is a societal principle rather than an idiosyncratic, emotional aberration.

The term matrilineal must ...

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