Patrilocal residence

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In social anthropology, patrilocal residence or patrilocality, also known as virilocal residence or virilocality, are terms referring to the social system in which a married couple resides with or near the husband's parents. The concept of location may extend to a larger area such as a village, town or clan territory. The practice has been found in around 70 percent of the world's cultures that have been described ethnographically.[citation needed] Evidence has also been found among Neanderthal remains in Spain and ancient hominid archaeology in Africa.[citation needed]


In a patrilocal society, when a man marries, his wife joins him in his father's home or compound, where they raise their children. These children will follow the same pattern. Sons will stay and daughters will move in with their husbands' families. Families living in a patrilocal residence generally assume joint ownership of domestic sources. The household is led by a senior member, who also directs the labor of all other members.

Matrilocal residence may be regarded as the opposite of patrilocal residence. However, since the majority of societies exhibit at least some degree of patriarchy, in most matrilocal groups the brothers (or mothers' brothers) are the authority figures, not the wives or mothers themselves.

Early theories explaining the determinants of postmarital residence (e.g., Lewis Henry Morgan, Edward Tylor, or George Peter Murdock) connected it with the sexual division of labor. However, to date, cross-cultural tests of this hypothesis using worldwide samples have failed to find any significant relationship between these two variables. However, Korotayev's tests show that the female contribution to subsistence does correlate significantly with matrilocal (as opposed to patrilocal) residence in general; however, this correlation is masked by a general polygyny factor. Although an increase in the female contribution to subsistence tends to lead to matrilocal residence, it also tends simultaneously to lead to general non-sororal polygyny which effectively destroys matrilocality, and pushes a social system toward patrilocality. If this polygyny factor is controlled (e.g., through a multiple regression model), division of labor turns out to be a significant predictor of postmarital residence. Thus, Murdock's hypotheses regarding the relationships between the sexual division of labor and postmarital residence were basically correct, though, as has been shown by Korotayev, the actual relationships between those two groups of variables are more complicated than he expected.[1]

Linguistic traces

In some Slavonic languages, verbs for marrying show evidence of patrilocality. In Polish the verb for "to marry", when done by a woman, is wyjść za mąż while in Russian it is выйти замуж (vyjti zamuzh). Both mean literally "to go out and behind the husband". In comparison, a man in Polish can simply żenić się and in Russian he is able to жениться, both meaning "to wife oneself". (In Polish, wziąć kobietę za żonę, "to take a woman for a wife", is another possibility).

The verbs for marriage in the Hungarian language show evidence of patrilocality. The verb for "to marry", when done by a woman, is férjhez menni, literally meaning "to leave [the family home] for the husband". However, the verbs házasodni and megházasodni, meaning "to house oneself", and összeházasodni "to house together", can be used by both males and females.

Neanderthals and early hominins

It is claimed that the practice was also prevalent in some Neanderthal populations. A 49,000-year-old grave was found in Spain in 2010 which contained three related-to-each-other males, with three unrelated-to-each-other females, suggesting they were the partners of the males.[2]

A 2011 study using ratios of strontium isotopes in teeth also suggested that roughly 2 million years ago, among Australopithecus and Paranthropus robustus groups in southern Africa, women tended to settle farther from their region of birth than men did.[3][4]


  1. ^ See, e.g., Korotayev A. Form of marriage, sexual division of labor, and postmarital residence in cross-cultural perspective: A reconsideration. Journal of anthropological research ISSN 0091-7710. 2003, Vol. 59, No. 1, pp. 69-89, Korotayev A. Division of Labor by Gender and Postmarital Residence in Cross-Cultural Perspective: A Reconsideration. Cross-Cultural Research. 2003, Vol. 37, No. 4, pp.335-372 doi:10.1177/1069397103253685).
  2. ^ Neanderthal family found cannibalised in cave in Spain, BBC
  3. ^ Bowdler, Neil (2 June 2011). "Ancient cave women 'left childhood homes'". BBC News. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  4. ^ Copeland SR, et al. (2011). "Strontium isotope evidence for landscape use by early hominins". Nature. 474: 76–78. doi:10.1038/nature10149. PMID 21637256. 


  • Ember, M.; Ember, C. R. (1971). "The Conditions Favoring Matrilocal versus Patrilocal Residence". American Anthropologist. 73: 571–594. doi:10.1525/aa.1971.73.3.02a00040. 
  • Fox, Robin (1967). Kinship and Marriage: An anthropological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-27823-6. 
  • Korotayev, Andrey. 2001. An Apologia of George Peter Murdock. Division of Labor by Gender and Postmarital Residence in Cross-Cultural Perspective: A Reconsideration. World Cultures 12(2): 179-203.
  • Korotayev, Andrey. 2003. Division of Labor by Gender and Postmarital Residence in Cross-Cultural Perspective: A Reconsideration // Cross-Cultural Research. The Journal of Comparative Social Science. 37/4: 335–372.

External links

  • Chart and explanation of patrilocal residence
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