1. Descent, Inheritance and Succession:
Here the descent is traced through the mother. Hence it is matrilineal in descent. Daughters inherit the property of the mother. They succeed their mother and the sons. The status of the children is mostly decided by the status of the mother.
2. Matrilocal Residence:
Matriarchal family is matrilocal in residence. After the marriage the wife stays back in her mother’s house. The husband who normally stays in his sister’s house, pays occasional visits to the wife’s house. He is treated as a ‘privileged visitor’. But he is given only secondary position. Sex relations between husband and wife tend to be very loose and both may often develop extra-marital sex-relations.
3. Exercise of Power:
In theory, the mother exercises authority and power in the matriarchal family. She is the head of the family and her decisions are final. But in practice, some relative of the mother, mostly her brother, exercises authority in the family and looks after property. Ex.: Among the Malay people the wife’s brother exercises authority in the family and among the Labrador Indians the wife’s father manages the household.
4. The Structure of the Family:
The maternal family brings together the kinsmen-(the wife, her mother and grandmother, her children and brothers, etc.) and welds them together into a powerful group. This type of family is normally associated with exogamy.