These are recognised through the male line. Patriarchal families are partilineal in character, because the descent is traced through the male line. Here, only the male children inherit the property of the father. In some instances, the eldest son enjoys some special rights. He normally succeeds the father after his death. Children are recognised as the children of the father and the mother is practically ignored.
Patriarchal family is Patrilocal in residence. Sons continue to stay with the father in his own house even after their marriages. Only the wives come and join them. Women have secondary position in these families for they have to be at the mercy of their menfolk. Children are brought up in their father’s, family.
Here the father or the eldest male member of the family is the dominant person. He is all in all. All the members are subordinated to him. He dictates terms for other members. All the major decisions pertaining to the family affairs are taken by him only.
Nobody has the authority to question him. He is the owner and the manager of the family property. During the early days, the patriarch had absolute authority over all the members of the family. The patriarch could sell his sons and wife or even kill them. In religious matters also he was the head.
Some Examples of Patriarchal Families:
The typical patriarchal families are not found today in the modern industrial societies. But they prevailed among the ancient Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, and the Aryans of India. The Roman patriarch had “the Patria Potestas” (the power of the father) which gave the head of the family an unlimited authority over all the other members.
There was no legal jurisdiction to challenge the authority of the patriarch. In ancient Palestine the father could sell his daughter into servitude. In the same manner the Hebrew patriarch exercised despotic power over all his dependants.
In India also during the Vedic period woman was subject to three kinds of successive obediences—to her father before her marriage, to her husband after the marriage and to her son during her widowhood or old age. In ancient Athens, women were not given an opportunity to lead public life. On the other hand, wife and daughters were kept in secluded “women’s apartment”.
At present, both matriarchal and patriarchal families have diminished. In their place egalitarian or equalitarian families in which father and mother enjoy equal status and opportunities, have emerged. Most of the families in the industrial societies are equalitarian families. They are often called ‘modern families’, and also ‘ nuclear families’.