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The term matrilateral describes kin (relatives) "on the mother's side".

Social anthropologists have underlined that even where a social group demonstrates a strong emphasis on one or other line of inheritance (matrilineal or patrilineal), relatives who fall outside this unilineal grouping will not simply be ignored. So, a strongly patrilineal orientation will be complemented by matrilateral ties with the mother's kin. Likewise within a strongly matrilineal organisation, patrilateral ties will enter the reckoning of relationships as an important balancing factor. This complementarity often has a moral or emotional tone to it: Malinowski's classic studies of the matrilineal Trobriand islanders showed that matrilineal ties were associated with discipline and authority, while patrilateral ties were characterised by nurturance and kindness (at least in principle). Likewise, in Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart, the hero, Okonkwo is forced into exile from his own ancestral village to the village of his matrilateral kin who should, by rights, treat him with maternal fondness.

Matrilineality is the tracing of kinship through the female line. It may also correlate with a social system in which each person is identified with their matriline – their mother's lineage – and which can involve the inheritance of property and/or titles. A matriline is a line of descent from a female ancestor to a descendant in which the individuals in all intervening generations are mothers – in other words, a "mother line". In a matrilineal descent system, an individual is considered to belong to the same descent group as their mother. This matrilineal descent pattern is in contrast to the more common pattern of patrilineal descent from which a family name is usually derived. The matriline of historical nobility was also called their enatic or uterine ancestry, corresponding to the patrilineal or "agnatic" ancestry.

Patrilineality, also known as the male line, the spear side or agnatic kinship, is a common kinship system in which an individual's family membership derives from and is recorded through his or her father's lineage. It generally involves the inheritance of property, rights, names or titles by persons related through male kin.

Malinowski is a surname of Polish-language origin. It is related to the following surnames:

Matrilateral cross-cousin marriage is typically used by anthropologists to describe a form of marriage in which the sons of one consanguineous group marry the daughters of the consanguineous group from which their mother originates. This may take the form of a preference for this kind of cousin marriage or a prescription that this is what will happen. The logical consequences of cross-cousin marriage (matrilateral or patrilateral) for group formation were first discussed in detail by Reo Fortune [1] and have provoked a great deal of debate amongst social anthropologists including Claude Lévi-Strauss, Edmund Leach and Rodney Needham (alliance theory).

Reo Fortune New Zealand anthropologist

Reo Franklin Fortune was a New Zealand-born social anthropologist. Originally trained as a psychologist, Fortune was a student of the major theorists of British and American social anthropology including Alfred Cort Haddon, Bronislaw Malinowski and Alfred Radcliffe-Brown. He lived an international life, holding various academic and government positions in China, the United States, Canada, Burma, and finally, in the United Kingdom as lecturer in social anthropology at Cambridge University from 1947 to 1971, as a specialist in Melanesian language and culture.

Claude Lévi-Strauss French anthropologist and ethnologist

Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist whose work was key in the development of the theory of structuralism and structural anthropology. He held the chair of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France between 1959 and 1982 and was elected a member of the Académie française in 1973. He received numerous honors from universities and institutions throughout the world and has been called, alongside James George Frazer and Franz Boas, the "father of modern anthropology".

Sir Edmund Ronald Leach was a British social anthropologist.


  1. A Note on Some Forms of Kinship Structure Oceania 1933 IV(1):1-9

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