Akan Residence and Household Composition

The Akan have three alternative residence forms -- natalocal, avunculocal, and patrilocal, each of which assumes a different dynamic in accordance with their matrilineal kinship system. The construction of individual households therefore is a complex process which reflects economic and demographic influences as well as the desire to conform to sometimes conflicting cultural values.

Natalocal Forms

The Akan most consistently follow a rule of natalocal residence, in which both husbands and wifes continue to reside with their families of origin after marriage. Children usually reside with their mothers and remain in their natal household throughout their lives.

Natalocal Residence: Stage I

A sister and brother (A and B) remain in their household of birth after marriage and are not coresident with their spouses.
A's children reside with her; B's children live in their mother's household.

This arrangement represents an direct accomodation to a matrilineal society, since it places all the members (both men and women) of a single matrilineal segment in the same compound.

Natalocal Residence: Stage II

Individual shaded in red belong to the same matrilineage

Since husbands and wives usually come from the same nucleated settlement they reside close enough to one another to make nightly visits. In fact women are expected to cook for their husbands daily, and evening deliveries of food are regularly arranged. Bates (p. 233) discusses a somewhat differerent natalocal arrangement among the Nayar, which he misclassifies as a matrifocal form. (Matrifocal households contain only women and children, but natalocal systems include resident adult males.)

Avunculocal Forms

The Akan alternatively practice avunculocality in which husbands and wives live together and care for their children until adulthood, after which the sons leave their parents' household to join their mother's brother's family. This arrangement places men of the same matrilineage in the same residence, while sending the women off to their husbands' groups. The Akan do not practice matrilocality, a form found in some matrilineal socieities in which a men live with their wive's families and thus with males of diverse matrilineages. (See avunculocal residence)

Patrilocal Forms.

In the third Akan system, patrilocality, men reside with their wives and children, and sons remain resident with fathers through adulthood, often adding their own wives and children to the domestic unit. This arrangement results from the work responsibilites that nuclear family members assume on a man's farms, even if the land it self is owned and allocated by his matrilineage. Patrilocal systems are often found in matrilineal societies, in spite of the fact that household arrangements include both men and women of diverse lineages. (See patrilocal residence)

Residence Form Coresident Matrilineal Kin











© Brian Schwimmer, All rights reserved
Department of Anthropology
University of Manitoba
Created 1995
Last updated: October 2003