mating patterns and family types

i keep saying that consanguineous/endogamous mating patterns lead to clannishness/tribalism, but do they really? i think the evidence strongly suggests yes (see the mating patterns series in the left-hand column below ↓), but it would be nice to quantify it. but how?

consang.net‘s data on modern cousin marriage rates would be easy and convenient to use, but where are the data on whether those societies are individualistic, clannish or tribal or whatever? i’m not aware of anything like that (if anyone is, please let me know!). i could, perhaps, sit down and, based on what i know, rate all these nations as clannish, etc., but 1) i might be wrong in some or a lot of the cases, and 2) i’d be worried about introducing my own biases. so that’s no good.

so, i thought i’d try george murdock‘s ethnographic atlas to see if i could find any useful info there. i did! (i think.)

what i looked for: which types and what frequencies of different basic family types (domestic organization) are found in societies with various mating patterns (number of cousin marriage [preferential] and community marriage organization). i got results for 186 different societies.

“domestic organization” equals:

– independent nuclear monogamous
– independent nuclear occasional polygyny
– independent polyandrous families
– polygynous unusual cowives pattern
– polygynous usual cowives pattern
– stem families
– small extended families
– large extended families

i collapsed these categories into: nuclear/stem families, polygynous/polyandrous families and extended families. i figured stem families are practically nuclear families, just with grandma and/or grandpa included. i left the polygynous/polyandrous societies (there were 30 of them) out of the final analysis ’cause i just don’t know what they are. nuclear families? extended families? i dunno.

“number of cousin marriage [preferential]” equals:

– two of four cousins (e.g. paternal)
– one of four cousins (e.g. fbd)
– no first cousins
– first and some second cousins excluded
– no preferential or prescriptive unions

the first four categories are all versions cousin marriage, so i collapsed those together.

for each of the societies that came back as “no preferential or prescriptive unions” (a total of 123), i drilled down into the “community marriage organization” category to see if i could work out if their marriage patterns were generally endogamous or exogamous.

“community marriage organization” equals [for more on what these categories mean, see pg. 7 here – opens pdf]:

– demes (not segmented into clan barrios) [exogamous]
– segmented communities without local exogamy [endogamous]
– agamous communities [no rules about endogamy/exogamy]
– exogamous communities (not clans) [exogamous]
– segmented communities (containing localized clans) with local exogamy [endogamous]
– clan communities (or clan barrios) [endogamous]

i collapsed these categories into either endogamous or exogamous, and then i combined the endogamous societies with the cousin marrying societies from above. i left the agamous communities (there were 66 of them) out of the final analysis ’cause who knows if they’re marrying in or out.

here’s what i found (click on chart for LARGER view):

of the exogamous societies, just about half have nuclear/stem families and the other half have some sort of extended families. of the consanguineous/endogamous societies, those having extended families number nearly double those with nuclear or stem families.

and the ratios of consanguineous/endogamous marriage patterns to exogamous marriage patterns are very different in each of the family-type divisions: endogamous to exogamous in nuclear family societies is about 2:1 while the ratio is more like 3.5:1 in extended family societies.

this isn’t a perfect analysis. a lot of the data in the murdock atlas is quite old, but it is still used frequently. and likely i screwed up along the way somewhere. but i think this is another indicator that, at the very least, there is a connection between in-marrying and clannishness.

update 07/18: see also mating patterns and family types ii

(note: comments do not require an email. hi there!)

15 Comments

  1. Is it really though? I have been thinking about it while watching BBC Sherlock Holmes. From what I understand, England practiced open-marriage and nuclear family for most people (other than for Aristocracy/Royalty). Yet, most Englishmen (at least it appears in books/movies) seem to automatically give preference to their “school-mates”.

    I suspect that growing-up together (in boarding schools) forms bonds that are not necessarily from genetic relatedness. So, it may be the opposite that in extended families, the children find more of their companions from their extended families while growing up due to proximity, and form bonds, perhaps leading to marriage or even showing ‘clannishness’.

    I don’t know how one tests if “growing up in close proximity” has more/less effect than ” genetic relatedness” in showing preference, or if it is already done.

    Sorry I am not terribly well informed on these matters.

    Reply

  2. @violet – “I have been thinking about it while watching BBC Sherlock Holmes. From what I understand, England practiced open-marriage and nuclear family for most people (other than for Aristocracy/Royalty). Yet, most Englishmen (at least it appears in books/movies) seem to automatically give preference to their ‘school-mates’.”

    which one were you watching? the priory school? i love sherlock holmes! (^_^)

    the thing with the english boarding school system is that it appears after the english started outbreeding back in the early medieval period. alan macfarlane talked about boarding schools in one of the videos i posted in this post (i think it was in the first video). he makes the point that families sending their children away to be raised and taught by other people en masse is a very curious, european — and mainly english — thing. it’s not something that you would traditionally have found in very many clannish or tribal societies (although maybe china is an exception? — but maybe the chinese didn’t go away to study until they were older?). i think it’s a feature of an outbred society.

    but you’re right that bringing kids up together away from their parents and family can certainly result in them forming bonds with each other and unrelated strangers that they wouldn’t have done otherwise. we are programmed, if you will, to form bonds with others, so — you know — whoever’s at hand. i’m sure the turks got lots of loyalty out of their janissaries and devshirme recruits.

    my point though, is, given a natural setting (i.e. not taking individuals away from their families), inbreeding/endogamous marriages is somehow connected to extended family systems while outbreeding not so much. i think the connection can be drawn this way: inbreeding→extended families, but maybe i’m wrong. (but i don’t think i am. (~_^) )

    Reply

  3. Under your evil influence, HBDC, I tried to raise HBD and consanguinity in a discussion of Syria on a British politics blog. They were wringing their hands at what was going on, in the usual “Aren’t I compassionate and concerned?” fashion. The slogan of the blog is from Orwell: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Unsurprisingly, my comment was swiftly deleted. Liberalism, if it means anything at all, is the right to clap your hands over your ears and go: “I’m not listening!”

    Reply

  4. @ hbd chic First of all, let me say that what you have done here is very impressive. I’m blown away. I mean the whole site of course, but particularly your ammassing evidence that inbreeding induces clannishness.

    In fact, it had once occurred to me, not seriously of course but as an idle speculation, that you simply had more intellectual firepower than any one person could possibly bring to bear. That would mean that you were a committee pretending to be just one person. Dark images of spooks in trench coats and dark glasses toiling away at trolling the internet, working through ideas and maintaining a superb IT presentation came to mind. The only motivation had to be to lure anyone out here who was actually thinking about things so we could be properly monitored. But this last makes that no longer viable even as a fantasy. I’ve dealt with oridnay government spooks. They just aren’t smart enough to have brought this one off. It would have to have come from the shadows behind the shadows.

    Did I say I am impressed?

    Down to business: “although maybe china is an exception? — but maybe the chinese didn’t go away to study until they were older?” I have little knowledge except what comes through sources that are not above suspicion of peddling prejudice. You now. Television progarms. But what they maintain for better or for worse is that the educated Chinese were all castrated. Only eunichs were permitted such power. So clannishness related to inbreeding was a non starter.

    Reply

  5. @linton – “But what they maintain for better or for worse is that the educated Chinese were all castrated. Only eunichs were permitted such power. So clannishness related to inbreeding was a non starter.”

    well, even if all the educated guys from clans were castrated, everyone else was still inbreeding and, therefore (i think), you get clannishness.

    and the eunuchs — they could help to promote their own genes in inclusive fitness sort of ways. (^_^)

    (i am totally gonna start wearing a trenchcoat and dark glasses from now on whenever i blog. i LUV that image! (~_^) )

    Reply

  6. @mary – “Under your evil influence, HBDC, I tried to raise HBD and consanguinity in a discussion of Syria on a British politics blog.”

    i’d never make it as an agony aunt. (~_^)

    i’ll betcha they were all talking about “the syrian people,” weren’t they? ugh. nothing irks me more nowadays. it’s such a wilful misunderstanding. there’s a great quote that i like to use by robin fox from The Tribal Imagination in which he talks about “the iraqi people,” but it applies equally well to the syrians (and the libyans, and the saudis, and the egyptians, etc., etc.) [pg. 62]:

    “For a start, there is no ‘Iraqi People.’ The phrase should be banned as misleading and purely rhetorical. Iraq as a ‘nation’ (like the ‘nation’ of Kuwait) was devised by the compasses and protractors of Gertrude Bell when the British and French divided up the Middle East in 1921. We know well enough the ethnic-religious division into Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. People who know very little else can rehearse that one (even if they do not really know the difference; the Kurds are Sunnis, after all). But what is not understood is that Iraq, like the other countries of the regions, still stands at a level of social evolution where the family, clan, tribe, and sect command major allegiance. The idea of the individual autonomous voter, necessary and commonplace in our own systems, is relatively foreign.”

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  7. As the speed and cost of sequencing keeps falling won’t it just be a matter of time before we can sequence cross-sections of various societal groups. Maybe it is going on right now. I don’t know.

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  8. Did you see this article? Much nicer map than the blurry one that you use. You might want to “borrow” it.

    Reply

  9. @luke – “As the speed and cost of sequencing keeps falling won’t it just be a matter of time before we can sequence cross-sections of various societal groups.”

    absolutely! and it’s gonna be awesome. (^_^)

    i just hope teh scientists start to include some provenance info for the samples so we can all know what we’re looking at.

    Reply

  10. @luke – “I see you’re having influence over at NYT.”

    yeah, i saw the click-thrus coming in from the times. (^_^)

    for the record, you (or, at least, i) get a lot more click-thrus from reddit than the nyt. someone linked to me on reddit the other day and ca. 8000 people clicked through on that day. so far from the nyt: 46. (~_^)

    Reply

  11. @anonymous – “Much nicer map than the blurry one that you use. You might want to ‘borrow’ it.”

    got it, thanks! (^_^) too bad eastern europe isn’t colored in … oh, well.

    Reply

  12. @anonymous – “Can this help?”

    yes! awesome. thank you! (^_^) a review article of the research into eastern european family types/structures is just what i needed!

    Reply

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