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Marriage and Kinship

1) I know that in Europe and North America we are primarily of bilateral descent, but what does this mean? Does it simply mean we recognize descent from both our mother's and our father's sides of the family, or is there more to it, related to how it applies to American culture (meaning how does it work)?

2) What type of post-marital residence patterns do most U.S. households practice?

3) Why is matrilineal parallel cousin marriage forbidden in a matrilineal society?

4) What are two functions of cross-cousin marriage in a small-scale society? Why are these functions important in a small-scale society, but not so important in a large-scale society like the U.S.?

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Dear Student,
Hello. I hope this solution gets to you in time. The information is based on general sources so for a course specific answer set, please review your text. Additionally, I am also attaching a public Kinship Document prepared by McGraw Hill Learning (2004) as it might help your studies. Thank you for using Brainmass.

Sincerely,
OTA 105878/Xenia Jones
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Bilateral Descent

With matrilineality, one considers only one 'sex' when looking at the family tree identifying descent and kinship. For example, by looking at the matrilineal line, one only identifies the female line through the mother and by looking at the patrilineal line one only identifies the male ancestors through the father. Anthropologist George Murdock (1940) explains -

"In the theoretical literature on social organization, 2 primary types of descent are commonly distinguished, namely 'bilateral descent' and 'unilateral descent'. Under the former, social affiliation corresponds to actual genealogical relationship, being traced equally through all lineal relations of a given ascending generation without regard to the sex of the relative or of connecting relatives. Under unilinear descent on the other hand, the line of affiliation through one parent and through lineal ascending and descending of relatives of the same sex is emphasized, yielding either matrilineal or patrilineal descent, and other possible lines of affiliation are disregarded."

Simply put, Europeans and North Americans in general regard kinship bilaterally, recognizing relations from the motherside and from the fatherside. How so? If you think back to the origins of European nations, specifically the tendency of families, especially the royals and the nobles to marry only within their particular circles to protect social rank, status, power and wealth, marriage and kinship is seen as a tool of power. In a recent trip to the Mosel Valley in Germany, I went on a tour of the Medieval Castle Burg Eltz - a beautiful fairytale castle that still belongs to the Eltz family who have had the castle under their keeping for 33 generations since the 12th century. In the Treasure room, treasures included goblets that belonged to important Eltz family members and there was a huge 'family tree' where the most notable of the Eltz, Count Rudolf zu Eltz (who was given power over the territory by the Emperor Frederick I) traces his descent side by side with his wife who also belonged to a powerful noble family. By reckoning and displaying descent they legitimize ownership and power over large swathes of territories that extend to Croatia and the lands around the Danube beyond the Moselle Valley. Inheritance and who begets power then is assigned or more appropriately 'proven' by kinship which necessitates tracing maternal and paternal lines. More ambitious families seek to have their children 'marry' into more affluent families to improve family fortunes legally, socially and economically. Hence, in European fairytales we always have poor, pretty girls marrying into the monarchy or princesses marrying princes. This extends however back to the days of Ancient Greece. Power and claim to power can only be made legitimate by bloodline and marriage and power usually stays within one particular family alone. For example, in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus had to hurry home in time to save his wife from the threat of suitors and family members desiring ...

Solution Summary

The solution, discussing kinship, is an extensive & comprehensive 2,036-word solution that tackles the four questions posted in the original problem (see long description). Divided into four parts, the solution is divided into the following narratives/topics: Bilateral Descent, Post-Marital Patterns in the US, Matrilineal Parallel Cousin Marriage & Cross-Cousin Marriages - it's function in small societies. References in print and from the web are listed for the purpose of expansion. A word version of the solution is attached for easy download and printing.

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