Power and Authority in Families
Descent and inheritance rights are intricately linked with patterns of power and cuthority in families. The most prevalent forms of familial power and authority are patriarchy, matriarchy, and egalitarianism. A patriarchal Hamill is a family structure in which author ity is held by the eldest male (usually the father). The male authority figure acts as head of the household and holds power and authority over the women and children, as well as over other males. A matriarchal family is a family structure in which authority is held by the eldest female (usually the mother). In this case, the female authority figure acts as head of the household. The most prevalent pattern of power and authority in families is patriarchy. Across cultures, men are the primary (and often sole) decision makers regarding domestic, economic, and social concerns facing the family. The existence of patriarchy may give men a sense of power over their own lives, but it can also create an atmosphere in which some men feel greater freedom to abuse women and children. An. egalitarian family is a family structure in which both partners share power and authority equally. Recently, a trend toward more-egalitarian relationships has been evident in a number of countries as women have sought changes in their legal status and increased educational and employment opportunities. Some degree of economic independence makes it possible for women to delay marriage or to terminate a problematic marriage (O'Connell, 1994). However, one study of the effects of egalitarian values on the allocation and performance of domestic tasks in the family found that changes were relatively slow in coming. According to the study, fathers were more likely to share domestic tasks in non conventional families where members held more-egalitarian values. Similarly. children's gender-role typing was more closely linked to their parents' egalitarian values and non conventional lifestyles than to the domestic tasks they were assigned (Weisner, Garnier, and Loucky, ) 994).