Ambilineal Descent

Ambilineal Descent Sociology


Ambilineal descent is a method of tracing ancestry that preserves the continuity of a group over the generations by using male or female linkages in no particular sequence. One or both of a person’s parents might serve as their connections to membership in an organization. It is tracing a person’s lineage, and the individual might choose to do so via either their father or mother.


In specific communities, matrilineal and patrilineal principles are used in various situations to establish groups that vary in their rights and duties. One example of this is the difference between the execution of the ritual and the management of the property. This kind of descent is known as dual or double descent. In contrast, a system is said to be ambilineal or cognatic when it is possible to demonstrate ancestry from a specific ancestor via genealogical relationships that may be followed either through male or female relations.

The ability to alter one’s permanent affiliation simply by relocating to a new location is the defining characteristic of ambilineal kinship systems.

A person is automatically a lineage member if he or she is descended from an ancestor, either through the father or the mother. He is obligated to fulfill his duties to a particular lineage for the rest of his life. People from other communities will continue to see him as a representative of that family or clan. When using ambilineal reckoning, on the other hand, an individual is free to choose whether or not it is in his best interest to fulfill the commitments he has made to a collective. He considers his membership in ramage to be a kind of private property, which he is free to utilize or dispose of in any way he sees fit. Instead of the jurally binding status achieved via unilineal descent, membership in an ambilineal group is more analogous to the statuses achieved by bilateral filiation.

A shared set of land, communal responsibilities, and communal ownership of some segments of a society’s wealth and debt are common characteristics of communities that practice ambilineality.


The regions of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands are home to a disproportionately high number of societies that practice ambilineal descent. Polynesian and Micronesian cultures, such as that of the Samoans, the Maori, the Hawaiians, and the inhabitants of the Gilbert Islands, are often ambilineal in their social structures and gender roles.

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