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Sociologists like to study humans in their natural environments.

One of these environments is called a neolocality. This lesson outlines human environments, defines neolocality and shows how you fit into the picture.

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Studying Family Life

Sociologists are people who spend their time studying how others live or have lived. They spend a lot of time looking at the structure of families.

Sometimes they do this by examining the past, like for instance by studying ancient ruins to determine what family structures might have been like thousands of years ago. Sometimes they take a look at current trends in living situations and draw conclusions about them. Studying families gives sociologists important information, like how societies are set up and what gender roles are. One thing sociologists examine revolves around neolocality.

But what does that mean?

Neolocality Defined

Think of your family and where you live. Do you live with your parents and grandparents? Do your aunts and uncles live in the same house as well? You likely don’t live in a huge house that has enough room for you and all your family members, but at one time — and in some cultures still today — families all lived together in one dwelling. For many of us, though, we grow up and move out of our parents’ house at some point.

When a couple gets married and begins their family in a home of their own, away from their parents and family, it is called neolocality.In other words, if the newlywed couple chooses to live by themselves, away from both sets of parents, it is considered a neolocality. If they live with the bride’s family, the residence is considered a matrilocality, and if it is with the groom’s parents it is a patrilocality.

Choosing a Home

Tyler and Katherine are a newly engaged couple. Soon, they’ll strike out on their own and begin their family.

They’ve been discussing where they’ll live after marriage. Katherine’s family is from Armenia, where some families still practice patrilocality, or living with the groom’s family. She explains the reasons behind this tradition, including saving money, showing respect to the groom’s status as head of the household and limited living space. Katherine would like to honor her heritage and proposes they begin their married life in Tyler’s parents’ house.

Tyler loves his parents but has a different idea of what he’d like his life to be after marriage. Though he understands Katherine’s reasons for wanting to live at his parents’ house, he points out that moving out and being on their own is a sign of adulthood in the United States. He reasons that having their own home will give them experience managing their own money and teach them independence. He wants to be able to move to another city when he becomes successful at his job and make his own choices about how to live on a day-to-day basis.So who is right? That answer depends.

Neolocality as a Choice

Today, most societies support neolocality. Like Tyler’s argument above, independence and mobility are important things to young people.

In fact, many people move away from their parents’ home before they marry, in college or after. Katherine’s idea of patrilocality is still a valid form of living in many parts of the world, though isn’t limited to the family’s home; in many cultures it also includes the village, neighborhood or town a family lives in. Though at one time many cultures in the world were male-dominated and patrilocal, living independent of both families is the choice most couples make today.Tyler assures Katherine they will both continue to be close to their families and attend traditional events. In fact, choosing neolocality doesn’t mean they are no longer part of the core family; it simply means they are living away from home.What type of culture do you choose to live in? If you’re still living with your parents, don’t worry.

Eventually, if you like, you can choose neolocality as well.

Lesson Summary

When couples marry they have to make a choice about where to live. If they decide to live with the groom’s parents its called patrilocality; if they live with the bride’s, it’s matrilocality. Though some couples do choose to live with their families, most today choose neolocality, or a residence of their own away from either parental group. This doesn’t mean the newly married couple won’t interact and be part of traditions of their families; instead, they will begin their new life and mesh with current family structures.

They may choose neolocality due to the desire for independence or to be close to work. Tyler and Katherine made the choice most couples in the United States make; we wish them well as they begin their new neolocality.

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