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Emergent matriliny in a matrifocal, patrilineal population: a male coalitionary perspective


SJ Macfarlan, RJ Quinlan, E Post


Daughter-biased parental investment and limited paternal care promote matrifocality and matrilineal descent, both of which are forms of matricentric social organization. However, matrifocality can occur under patrilineal descent. We hypothesize that matrilineal descent could emergently organize social relationships if a society were normatively patrilineal but matrifocal. Furthermore, in matrifocal environments, male and female social lives are envisioned as sex-specific adaptive strategies. Males purportedly form large, flexible social support networks that conflict with conjugal partnership investment owing to a tradeoff in the allocation of effort associated with either investing in male social support or provisioning the conjugal household. However, no quantitative analyses exist about the effect of conjugal partnership formation on male social relations in matrifocal communities. Here we examine whether matrilineal kinship organizes male same-sex social relationships and the effect of conjugal partnerships on male social support in a normatively patrilineal, but matrifocal village. We find that matrilineal kinship influences male social support networks, but not labour cooperation. Consistent with a tradeoff associated with investing in male social support or a conjugal union, we find that labouring with a conjugal partner, but not conjugal partnership itself, reduces male labour and social support outcomes. Our results suggest new insights into men's roles in matricentric social organization: (1) matriliny can emerge in patrilineal systems when household economics shift toward matrifocality in which matrilineal descent is used to organize male social support, and (2) the degree to which this shift occurs depends on the proportion of men who invest in same-sex social networks as opposed to a conjugal partner and offspring.

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Last Updated: 3/24/21