Patriarchy: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson defines patriarchy. It also provides a brief description of where the term originated and how systems of patriarchy have changed over time.

What is a Patriarchy?

A patriarchy is most often thought of as a group or society that is culturally based on male-dominated teachings. Yet, a patriarch is not just a man who runs a home or leads a culture. The term patriarch originated from the Latin variation of pater familias and was used to denote a Roman male who exercised autocratic authority over a family. This system carried over into patriarchy, which indicates a system where families are ruled by senior males.

The Structure of Patriarchy

The control within a patriarchal system can fall within a large range. In some traditionally rigid patriarchal groups, males are given the opportunity for independence whereas there is very little opportunity for female family members to experience the same individuality. Because females are not viewed equally, the sharing of power and control in an equal partnership between a man and woman does not exist.

Not all but many patriarchal groups and cultures are based on the opinion that traditionally regards women as physically weaker and/or less intelligent. Within such subcultures, females are expected to be subservient to males within the family, as well as to males outside the family. This is not to say that all patriarchal groups view females as dispensable. There are some who have a more democratic relationship with females, but the male head of the household has power over the final decision being made.

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