Shopping Cart

No products in the cart.

Rules of Residence

Anthropologists have long been interested in the study of residence patterns because they illuminate the social organization, family structure, and value systems within a society [1]. Rules of residence refer to the societal norms dictating where a newly married couple will establish their residence [2].

Patrilocal/Virilocal Residence

Patrilocal or virilocal residence refers to the practice where a newly married couple resides with or near the husband’s parents. This pattern is common in patriarchal societies.

Key features include:

  • Ensuring continuity of patrilineage.
  • Property typically inherited along male lines.
  • Women often move away from their natal homes post-marriage.

Matrilocal/Uxorilocal Residence

Matrilocal or uxorilocal residence represents the opposite of patrilocal/virilocal residence. The married couple settles with or near the wife’s parents.

Characteristics of matrilocal societies:

  • Maintenance and continuity of matrilineal kinship.
  • Property commonly inherited along female lines.
  • Men may move away from their natal homes after marriage.

Bilocal Residence

Bilocal residence offers flexibility, allowing the married couple to reside either with the husband’s or the wife’s family.

  • Provides a choice based on the couple’s preference or economic needs.
  • This pattern may lead to a more balanced gender power dynamic.

Neolocal Residence

A neolocal residence signifies a societal norm where a newly married couple sets up a new household separate from their parents.

This pattern has three primary features:

  • Promotes nuclear family structure.
  • Encourages geographic and economic mobility.
  • Common in industrialized and urban societies.

Avunculocal Residence

In an avunculocal residence, the newly married couple lives with or near the husband’s mother’s brother (uncle).

  • Typically observed in matrilineal societies.
  • Enhances the role of the maternal uncle in upbringing and socialization.

Amitalocal Residence

Amitalocal residence is a pattern where the married couple lives away from both the husband’s and the wife’s parents.

  • Promotes independence and autonomy.
  • Frequent in nomadic societies due to their mobile lifestyle.

Matri-Patrilocal Residence

In a Matri-Patrilocal residence, the couple initially lives with the wife’s family (Matrilocal) and later moves to live with the husband’s family (Patrilocal).

  • Ensures both matrilineal and patrilineal kinship ties are maintained.
  • Provides initial support for the couple and later reinforces paternal bonds.
Residence TypeAssociated SocietyTypical Features
Patrilocal/VirilocalPatriarchalContinuity of patrilineage
Matrilocal/UxorilocalMatriarchalContinuity of matrilineage
BilocalFlexibleBalanced gender power dynamic
NeolocalIndustrialized, UrbanNuclear family, Geographic mobility
AvunculocalMatrilinealEnhanced role of maternal uncle
AmitalocalNomadicIndependence, Mobility
Matri-PatrilocalMixedMaintained kinship ties, Support for couple

Comparative Analysis of Residence Patterns

To comprehend the implications of these rules of residence, let’s delve into a comparative analysis of these patterns based on sociocultural, economic, and geographical factors.

Sociocultural Factors

  • Influence on Family Structure: Patrilocal/Virilocal, Matrilocal/Uxorilocal, and Avunculocal residences often lead to extended family structures, with multiple generations living under one roof or nearby. Conversely, Neolocal and Amitalocal residences are associated with the nuclear family structure, while Matri-Patrilocal residence allows for an initial extended family structure that transitions into a nuclear one.
  • Gender Roles and Power Dynamics: Patrilocal/Virilocal residence can reinforce male authority within the family, while Matrilocal/Uxorilocal residence can empower women by emphasizing matrilineal kinship. Bilocal and Neolocal residences potentially facilitate more balanced gender dynamics, allowing both partners equal choice or independence.

Economic Factors

  • Resource Allocation and Inheritance: In patrilocal societies, resources are typically inherited along male lines, while in matrilocal societies, inheritance follows female lines. Neolocal, Amitalocal, and Matri-Patrilocal residences may enable a more flexible approach to resource allocation and inheritance.
  • Livelihood and Subsistence: Patrilocal, Matrilocal, and Avunculocal residences often occur in agrarian societies where family-based labor is advantageous. Neolocal and Amitalocal residences are common in industrialized societies with diverse economic opportunities.

Geographical Factors

  • Mobility: Neolocal and Amitalocal residences encourage geographic mobility and urbanization. Bilocal residence allows for mobility based on necessity or preference. Conversely, Patrilocal, Matrilocal, and Avunculocal residences may limit mobility due to the emphasis on staying close to kin.
  • Population Distribution: Patrilocal, Matrilocal, and Avunculocal residence patterns can lead to clustered population distributions, whereas Neolocal, Amitalocal, and Bilocal residences contribute to dispersed population distributions.

By analyzing the varied residence patterns from sociocultural, economic, and geographical perspectives, we gain a comprehensive understanding of their implications on societal structure and dynamics.


The concept of residence rules plays a vital role in shaping societies. These rules, whether they favor the husband’s or the wife’s family, or advocate for independence, determine the power dynamics, inheritance patterns, family structures, and even mobility of the members. As we progress and societies continue to evolve, the understanding and study of these residence patterns remain fundamental to anthropology.


[1] Ember, M. & Ember, C. (2001). “Cultural Anthropology”. Prentice Hall.

[2] Murdock, G. P. (1965). “Culture and Society”. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.

Anthropologist Vasundhra - Author and Anthroholic

Vasundhra, an anthropologist, embarks on a captivating journey to decode the enigmatic tapestry of human society. Fueled by an insatiable curiosity, she unravels the intricacies of social phenomena, immersing herself in the lived experiences of diverse cultures. Armed with an unwavering passion for understanding the very essence of our existence, Vasundhra fearlessly navigates the labyrinth of genetic and social complexities that shape our collective identity. Her recent publication unveils the story of the Ancient DNA field, illuminating the pervasive global North-South divide. With an irresistible blend of eloquence and scientific rigor, Vasundhra effortlessly captivates audiences, transporting them to the frontiers of anthropological exploration.

Articles: 267

Newsletter Updates

Enter your email address below and subscribe to our newsletter

Leave a Reply