In social anthropology, matrilocal residence or matrilocality (also uxorilocal residence or uxorilocality) is a term referring to the societal system in which a married couple resides with or near the wife's parents, thus the female offspring of a mother remain living in (or near) the mother's house, thereby forming large clan-families, typically consisting of three or four generations living in the same place.


Frequently, visiting marriage is being practiced, meaning that husband and wife are living apart in their separate families, seeing each other in their spare time. The children of such marriages are raised by the mother's extended matrilineal clan. The father does not have a significant role in the upbringing of his own children; he does, however, in that of his sisters' children (nieces/nephews). In direct consequence, property is inherited from generation to generation, and over all, remains largely undivided.

Matrilocal residence is found most often in horticultural societies.[1]

Examples of matrilocal societies include the people of Ngazidja, the Ancient Pueblo Peoples of Chaco Canyon, the Nair community in Kerala in South India, the Moso of Yunnan and Sichuan in southwestern China, the Siraya of Taiwan, and the Minangkabau of western Sumatra. In native Amazonia, this residence pattern is often associated with the customary practice of brideservice, as seen among the Urarina of northeastern Peru.[2] In contemporary mainland China, uxorilocal marriage has been encouraged by the government (Wolf 1985) in an attempt to counter the problem of unbalanced male-majority sex ratios caused by abortion and infanticide and abandonment of girls. Because girls traditionally marry out in virilocal marriage they have been seen as "mouths from another family" or as a waste of resources to raise. During the Song Dynasty in medieval China, matrilocal marriage became common for wealthy, non-aristocratic families.

In other regions of the world, such as Japan, during the Heian period, a marriage of this type was not a sign of high status, but rather an indication of the patriarchal authority of the woman's family (her father or grandfather), who was sufficiently powerful to demand it (Ramusack and Sievers 1999).

Another matrilocal society is the !Kung San of Southern Africa. They practice uxorilocality for the bride service period which lasts until the couple has produced three children or they have been together for more than ten years. At the end of the bride service period the couple has a choice of which clan they want to live with.[3]

Early theories explaining the determinants of postmarital residence (e.g., 10.1177/1069397103253685).

In sociobiology, matrilocality refers to animal societies in which a pair bond is formed between animals born or hatched in different areas or different social groups, and the pair become resident in the female's home area or group.

List of matrilocal societies



  • Ember, M. and C. R. Ember. 1971. The Conditions Favoring Matrilocal versus Patrilocal Residence. American Anthropologist 73:571–594.
  • Jordan, F. H., Gray, R. D., Greenhill, S. J., & Mace, R. (2009). Matrilocal residence is ancestral in Austronesian societies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1664), 1957–1964. Full text
  • 12(2): 179–203.
  • 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.
  • Peregrine, Peter N. "Matrilocality, Corporate Strategy, and the Organization of Production in the Chacoan World. American Antiquity. January 2001: 66:1, 36–46.
  • Ramusack, Barbara N., and Sharon Sievers. Women in Asia: Restoring Women to History. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press: 1999.
  • Shepherd, John R. Marriage and Mandatory Abortion among the 17th Century Siraya. American Anthropological Association, 1995.
  • Shih, Chuan-kang. Quest for Harmony: the Moso Traditions of Sexual Union & Family Life. Stanford, 2010.
  • Stockard, Janice E. Marriage in Culture Australia: Wadsworth, 2002
  • Wolf, Margery. Revolution Postponed: Women in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press, 1985. 196–198.

See also

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