Matriage: Facing 3rd-millennium challenges with matrilocal family clans

The family institution is in disarray

Currently, the family, as known in our Western countries, is based on the nuclear model. That is a minimal family form, focusing on the father and the mother and their multiple children. This model, whose marriage is the legal representation, is now in disarray. Daniel Dagenais has eloquently demonstrated the fact in his book " La fin de la famille moderne " (The End of the Modern Family) 1 . In "La famille à l'horizon 2020" (The Family by 2020), Marie Pratte suggested the path of a legal union between a brother and a sister or between a child and a sick parent as an alternative to marriage 2 . Although this opens the door to matrilocal family clan organization, why limit the scope to two individuals?

The current setbacks of our families are numerous. Suffice it to raise its disastrous results on two of its most important social responsibilities:

  1. Population renewal;
  2. Fulfill children’s primary need for a stable and safe environment from birth to adulthood.

Population renewal

In terms of population renewal, today's modern family performance remains below the minimum threshold since the 1980s for the vast majority, and since 2000 for almost all developed countries 3 . That is serious because, to compensate, our governments undertook very poorly planned immigration policies. A society incapable of self-renewal is seriously ill. And in a sick society, welcoming and integrating immigrants can only be problematic4 .

The debates' bitterness surrounding the various political projects on immigration in Europe and North America has clearly shown the extent of uneasiness concerning this subject within Western populations. There is indeed a growing immigration panic wave building up in Western countries5 . The link between this panic and the fertility decrease does not receive enough public attention6 . Because the use of immigration as a tool to compensate for the drop in the birth rate is undisputable7 . In matriarchies, the extensive and stable matrilocal family clan networks will make migration less necessary. But most importantly, they will be in a much better position to integrate migrants carefully.

A stable and safe environment for children, from birth to adulthood

We already know that fewer young children's parents enter marriage. But the risk estimate of experiencing separation from their parents is 3 to 4 times higher for children of common-law relationship’s parents8 . A growing number of our families today, if not the majority, cannot provide a stable and safe environment for our children. Including too many, even just for the infancy period. It is just unacceptable and dramatic. The distress experienced by families struggling with parents' separation is immense. The impact on children who find themselves amid these tragedies is significant9 . There is no reason for this situation to continue.

What about women and children being safe at home?

Another critical failure of the nuclear family model is that the most dangerous place for women is their own home. That is the terrible conclusion of a United Nations' study10 . According to the study, however, women's risk may vary considerably geographically. But even in a country like Canada, recent rises in reported domestic violence are alarming, notably since it often affects children11 .

There are no new family models

Many evoke new contemporary models of the family that are emerging. That is an exciting interpretation that omits a fundamental detail. Almost all families embark on this adventure by settling first according to the nuclear model. The improvised solutions to which families later adhere reflect only the confusion and chaos they end up after separation.

There are only new dismantled families

Suppose we omit the legitimate recent openings for same-sex parents. In this case, there is still practically only one model of the family in Western countries: the nuclear family. There is no other model for families settling down. There are only new models for families that are falling apart.

Nuclear Family Growth En V0.1.3

There are only two viable family models: by the father or by the mother

Even though there are several variants in human history, there is practically only one other viable family model: the matrilocal family clan. This model of the family is practiced, for example, by the Mosuo of China for 2000 years. This model guarantees family stability in their land and ensures the high quality of relations between men and women. That is the message that IISD sent us by choosing Mosuo as a model community12 .

Sexuality and family do not fit together well

What the Mosuos tell us is that sex and family do not go along. Our young families' high instability is eloquent proof of this statement.13 Matriarchies' experience shows that sexual relations should not belong to the family domain.14 That is a radical change from the Western world's traditional nuclear model. But it is a model with proven viability, which is synonymous with harmonious and equitable relationships between women and men.

Matrilocal Family Development En V0.1.2

The child's father and mother can continue to hang out without living together

The matrilocal family clan model highlights children's uncles as paternal figures. That does not mean that the relationship between the child's mother and its biological father is automatically short-lived, although that happens quite often. The relationship between the lovers may continue in harmony, which is also quite usual after childbirth. The father would then visit his partner regularly (practically every night), possibly maintaining a meaningful relationship with the child.
In today's Western societies, many couples are still unable to only be in each other's presence because of the separation's deep wounds. Imagine that they could have managed to maintain a good relationship, had their families been matrilocal clans.

An enlarged vertical family

On the other hand, unlike the nuclear model, the matrilocal family clan stretches vertically and horizontally, gathering several maternal line generations living in the same place. It is a model that is well suited to help us face the social, economic, and environmental challenges that our community will face in the coming decades.

Protecting ourselves from crises by sharing our family resources

Allowing several adults to live in the same place, the matrilocal family clan favors family members' asset sharing. It will enable them to maintain or even improve their standard of living, despite the severe economic difficulties that may occur at any time.

Continue to operate family farms

By concentrating the many members' resources and skills, the new matrilocal family clans will quickly attain a high degree of autonomy. We can anticipate that many of them will be able to maintain farm operations. Agriculture is experiencing tough times in Western countries. That is a significant heritage of our ancestors which is at stake. Farms in our countries will undoubtedly be able to count on the support of several large matrilocal family clans.

Help for seniors and early childhood

Then, as several generations will live in the same place, it will be possible to catalyze family resources for helping seniors and early childhood. As matrilocal family clans become established, we can expect that the public system will benefit from increased collaboration with the beneficiaries' family circle. That will result in gradual care requirements reduction and thus reduce state burden.

Share, restore and repair to slow growth

Finally, at the ecological level, large matrilocal family clans' establishments will encourage a slowdown in consumption growth. Members of these families living in the same place will spontaneously share, restore, and repair several goods. Ultimately, this will make a significant contribution to our environment cleansing. The growth and spread of the population will slow down. Instead, it is the size of each matrilocal family clan that will fluctuate over time.

The construction industry will be able to adapt

For example, the construction industry will gradually adapt to this sustainable model. First, growth can continue for a while with the creation of new architectural complexes that can better meet the needs of matriages. And of course, by transforming existing single-nuclear-family residences, first by subdividing them into smaller individual units with direct access to the outdoors, and then connecting them with larger community spaces.

Improve the functioning of our society instead of spreading it

Over time, we will live in a set of well-established matrilocal family clans within a network of stable and well-identified entities. We will then focus on our talents and resources to improve this stable network's functioning and collaboration. Imagine only the whole socio-economic effort that we currently engulf in the population's growth and spread, made necessary by the constant creation of new nuclear families. And now also in single-parent households after their breakup. Instead, we will now invest all of these resources to perfect the way we organize and serve ourselves collectively.

But then, what are the nuclear family's benefits?

So there is indeed another family model that seems to respond much better to the majority of Western family members' needs. And even to secure the long-term future of our society. One wonders: what are the "benefits" of the nuclear family model compared to the matrilocal family clan for Western families? For the moment, we have only identified three:

The nuclear family type is simpler to move

  • In the event of a cataclysm, it can be an advantage;
    • However, is this characteristic really a benefit if we oppose it to the much higher autonomy degree of the matrilocal family clan?
  • To meet a new job requirement:
    • In a matrilocal family clan, it is usually relatively easy for one of its members to settle away for a few years;
    • In any case, life jobs are practically non-existent in our contemporary societies.
    • These job requirements are often a cause of nuclear families' dismantling when both spouses have geographically distant employment opportunities.

The biological father has rights over the children

  • The matrilocal family clan does not offer any paternity rights:
    • It does not mean that fathers cannot see their children, on the contrary.
    • If desired on both sides, the contribution of fathers will always be welcome:
      • Fathers can see it as an opportunity or a privilege, which must be seized and deserved.

There is a constant creation of new nuclear family settlements, which generates more consumption needs

  • It was a gold mine at the time of uninterrupted growth economy;
  • Today it is a real curse in this era requiring a sustainable economy.


1 « Saying that the family is in crisis in an understatement. The turmoil of the institution has thrown its members into a deep disarray that feeds a family pathology whose symptoms are just beginning to appear: domestic violence, parental violence, suicide, dropping out of school, pure parental abandonment, rejuvenation of delinquency and crime, etc. » (loose translation)
Original quote: « C'est peu dire que la famille soit en crise. Le chamboulement de l'institution a jeté ses membres dans un profond désarroi qui nourrit une pathologie familiale dont les symptômes commencent seulement à poindre : violence conjugale, violence parentale, suicide, décrochage scolaire, abandon parental pur et simple, rajeunissement de la délinquance et du crime, etc. » (p. 198)
Daniel Dagenais, La fin de la famille moderne
Les Presses de l'Université Laval, 2000
2 « As the Law Commission suggested in 2001, this model could go beyond conjugality. [...] One can think of the brother and sister who live together or the adult child who resides with a sick relative.(loose translation)
« Comme le suggérait en 2001, la Commission du droit, ce modèle pourrait aller au-delà de la conjugalité. [...] On peut songer au frère et à la sœur qui habitent ensemble ou à l'enfant majeur qui réside avec un parent malade. » (p. 416)
Marie Pratte, La situation juridique de la famille de 2020%%%Gilles Pronovost, Chantale Dumont, Isabelle Bitaudeau, La famille à l'horizon 2020%%%Presses de l'université du Québec, 2008, ISBN 978-2-7605-1553-6
3 « Last year, the total number of births in the United States fell to its lowest level in 30 years [...] The total fertility rate, meanwhile, which estimates the average number of children a woman could expect to have over her lifetime at current birth rates for each age, at 1.76 births per woman, is below the “replacement rate” for fertility. That is the level that keeps populations stable (about 2.1 children per woman) [...] America, meanwhile, still has higher fertility rates than many European countries. In 2016, Spain had a total fertility rate of 1.33 and Germany 1.50. Ever fewer rich countries maintain a replacement fertility rate: out of 63 current high income countries for which the World Bank has data, only 22 saw total fertility rates below 2.1 in 1976; by 2016 this had risen to 57. »
C.K., America’s fertility rate continues its deep decline
The Economist, October 31st, 2018 (visited February 3rd, 2020)

See also Total fertility rate, European and developed countries (visited February 3rd, 2020)
Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques
4 « In short, demographic facts and projections are real, rather than imaginary, and important, rather than trivial. They would normally cause concern among all human groups. » (loose translation)
Original quote: « Bref, faits et projections démographiques sont bien réels, plutôt qu’imaginaires, et importants, plutôt que triviaux. Ils susciteraient normalement de l’inquiétude au sein de tous groupes humains. »
Michel Paillé, L’immigration au Québec dans un contexte de sous-fécondité chronique
Bulletin d'histoire politique, volume 18, numéro 2 (hiver 2010) (visited June 26th, 2018)
5 « We are seeing a new red scare, except this time the enemy isn’t communists; it’s immigrants. [...] Obama was better in his language than Trump, but not much better in his policies. He was called the “deporter in chief” by immigrant advocates because of his record of forcibly removing 3 million people without proper papers. »
Suketu Mehta, Immigration panic: how the west fell for manufactured rage
The Guardian, August 27th, 2019 (visited February 3rd, 2020)
6 « Immigration is now an election issue in many countries. The debate usually revolves around fears that immigrants drive down wages, dilute social welfare, and take jobs that would otherwise be available to native nationals. But the deeper questions are: how did we lose the will to replace ourselves and, knowing the demographic consequences of losing that will, can we reclaim it? These vitally important questions call for vibrant public debate. »
William Reville, Let’s talk about the link between immigration and low reproduction rates
, The Irish Times, January 19th, 2017 (visited February 16th, 2020)
7 « For places such as the U.S. and parts of Western Europe, which historically are attractive to migrants, loosening immigration policies could make up for low birthrates. »
Andre Tartar, Hannah Recht, and Yue Qiu, The Global Fertility Crash
Bloomberg Businessweek, October 31st, 2019 (visited February 3rd, 2020)
8 « In Quebec, in 2010, there was 45% of divorced couples within married couples of the opposite sex, almost a marital breakdown for two married couples. [...] Cohabiting couples are more fragile than married couples, so children from these families are three to four times more likely to see their parents break up (Joyal, et al, 2002). More specifically, the probability of separation is twice as high for common-law women as for married women (Statistics Canada, 2006). » (loose translation)
Original quote: « Au Québec, en 2010, on observe un taux de 45 % de couples divorcés parmi les couples mariés du sexe opposé, soit presque une rupture conjugale pour deux couples mariés. Les couples en cohabitation sont plus fragiles que les couples mariés, de sorte que les enfants issus de ces familles sont trois à quatre fois plus susceptibles de voir leurs parents rompre leur union (Joyal, et.al, 2002). Plus précisément, la probabilité de se séparer serait deux fois plus élevée chez les femmes en union libre que chez les femmes mariées (Statistique Canada, 2006). » (p. 6)
Francine Cyr, Prévalence de la garde partagée chez les familles québécoises ayant un enfant né en 1997-1998 (visited June 28th, 2018)
9 « children whose parents are separated or divorced are more likely than children whose parents live together to experience certain physical health problems, depression, anxiety and other psycho-emotional disorders, to present various behavioral problems externalized, to be less successful in school, to study for a shorter time, and to experience more relationship difficulties. » (loose translation)
Originale quote: «... les enfants dont les parents sont séparés ou divorcés sont plus susceptibles que les enfants dont les parents vivent ensembles d’éprouver certains problèmes de santé physique, de souffrir de dépression, d’anxiété et d’autres désordres psychoaffectifs, de présenter divers problèmes de comportement extériorisés, de réussir moins bien à l’école et de poursuivre des études moins longtemps ainsi que de connaître davantage de difficultés relationnelles. » (p. 1)
Hélène Desrosiers, Jean-François Cardin et Luc Belleau, L’impact de la séparation des parents sur la santé mentale des jeunes enfants (visited June 28th, 2018)
11 « The term “epidemic” is apt when describing intimate-partner violence given the social contagion it can wreak. Children are the first collateral victims, directly and indirectly. Rates of children and youth implicated in police-reported intimate-partner violence have declined since 2009, though a 2017 Statistics Canada survey noted a rise in recent years. »
Anne Kingston, We are the dead
Maclean’s, September 17th, 2019 (visited February 15, 2020)
12 « For 2,000 years, the Mosuos have maintained a society in which women uphold the integrity and assume leadership roles in the community. 85% of the population are still living under matrilineal family structures where women are heads of households, care for the young and the old, carry the family lineage and distribute wealth and resources with equality. »
We the Peoples : 50 Communities Awards
13 « Sexual infidelity, which can be defined as extradyadic sex within the context of a monogamous relationship, is considered to be among the most significant threats to the stability of adult relationships, including marriage. »
Kristen P. Mark - Erick Janssen - Robin R. Milhausen, Infidelity in Heterosexual Couples: Demographic, Interpersonal, and Personality Related Predictors of Extradyadic Sex
Springer Science+Business Media, 12 février 2011 (visited July 17, 2023)
14 « Matriarchal societies are very liberal; as men ensure their filiation through their sisters, they are rid, once and for all, of the tenacious genealogical anxiety that torments patrilineal societies: knowing if they are indeed the father ... sexuality is disjointed from the family reproduction since women have one or more lovers who fertilize them, with whom they have episodic or ongoing relations, with whom they may or may not live; it does not matter in the end, since in any case, the child belongs to the mother's clan. » (loose translation)
Original quote: « Les sociétés matriarcales sont très libérales ; comme les hommes assurent leur filiation par leurs sœurs, ils sont, une fois pour toutes, débarrassés de l’inquiétude généalogique tenace qui taraude les sociétés patrilinéaires : savoir s’ils sont bien le père ... la sexualité est disjointe de la reproduction de la famille, puisque les femmes ont un ou plusieurs amants qui les fécondent, avec lesquels elles ont des relations épisodiques ou suivies, avec lesquels elles peuvent vivre ou non ; peu importe en définitive, puisque de toute façon l’enfant appartient au clan de la mère »
Paul Rasse, Sexualité et communauté familiale, le regard de l'anthropologie
From Hermès, La Revue 2014/2 (n° 69), pages 135-140 (visited July 17, 2023)

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