chapter  4
29 Pages

The Classification of Donble Descent Systems

Introduction One of the commonest methods of classifying human societies is by their systems of descent, of which four varieties are usually distinguished: bilateral, patrilineal, matrilineal, and double descent. However, such a classification has different meanings for different social scientists. The phrase 'patrilineal descent' may refer to one or more among the following: the inheritance of property, succession to oflice, eligibility for membership in unilineal groups, or the degree of emphasis given to ties traced with or through the father. The major difficulties about any usage involving more than one of these criteria are that, in the first place, no two are invariably found in association and, in the second, the terms carry different meanings in respect of these four features. Hence confusion can, and does, easily ensue.