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Social Order and Energy Consumption in Matrifocal Households

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Human Ecology, Number 7, p.21-39 (1979)



The positive association between energy used and social complexity proposed by Leslie White and his students is examined at the microsociological level of the household. The hypothesis is tested within matrifocal households supported either by welfare or by the mother's earnings. White's macrosociological proposition is found to be conditional on other cultural, social organizational factors. Household energy consumption rises to the extent that the family establishes ties with outside social organizations, with an increase in the tempo of household activity, and, pari passu,with the expressiveness of the personality of the female household head. Energy consumption is a way of coping with the effects of reduced social organizational and personality order. These social factors interact with demographic and technological factors in determining a social organization's level of energy consumption. By considering the institutional, organizational, and motivational measures suggested in this paper, the unreliability of energy use predictions may be reduced.