Patrilocality: Definition & Overview

Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Patrilocality is when a newly married couple decide to take up residence with or within close proximity to the husband's family. Learn more about patrilocality from this lesson, then test your knowledge with a quiz.


Mia and George are a couple who met at an art gallery. On the night of their fifth anniversary, George proposed to Mia. One of the first decisions that Mia and George had to make before they walked down the aisle was where they would live once they got married. The couple decided they wanted to move to Philadelphia and live with George's parents. A week after their honeymoon, Mia and George packed up their belongings and moved into George's family home as husband and wife.

Patrilocality Defined

In many societies, it is common for newlyweds to join an existing household that already consists of one or more relatives. Which relatives the married couple prefers to reside with is heavily dependent upon culture. One such residence is known as patrilocality.

Patrilocality refers to when a newlywed couple lives close to or near the husband's family. It is standard practice for married men to maintain close proximity with their male relatives in many societies. Patrilocality is found usually in societies that have patrilineal descent, which is when descent is traced only through male ancestors to their offspring. Because the husband is able to remain in his childhood setting while the wife is taken away from hers, patrilocality gives the husband's family more authority.

Patrilocality is often favorable in instances where males have a prevalent role in maintaining the family's livelihood. This is particularly true if men own property and can acquire more over time, if polygyny (where the husband has more than one wife) is the norm, in times of war where cooperation among men is critical, and if men have political authority.

All of these situations are more likely to exist together in places that are dependent upon animal husbandry and/or other forms of agriculture for their livelihood. It has been estimated that sixty-nine percent of societies world-wide practice patrilocality, which is the most common form of residence.

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