Family Structure:
The Bambara people trace their heritage through patilineal decent. Patrilocal extended families act as the political structure in Bambara culture. These extended family groups can comprise between 100-1000 members. Young men’s position in their initiation groups plays a significant role in their position within the village in the future. (uiowa)

For the most part, each extended family group makes up its own village. These villages consist of many different households, or gwa. Members of each household work collectively to provide for everyone who lives there. Homes within the village are usually bigger than those in other African societies, often comprising of up to 60 or more family members. (Joshua Project)

Each village or extended family is known by its symbol, usually an animal. There is a great deal of loyalty among villages of the Bambara. The eldest male in the family is respected as the village chief. When a chief passes away, that authority is passed down to the oldest living male. (Adem)


Kinship Terminology:
The kinship terminology used by the Bambara is indicative of their patrilocal society. Bambara use different words to classify their parallel and cross cousins. The same word used for siblings also applies to paternal cousins, but not for cousins on the maternal side. Similarly, people call their nieces and nephews on the paternal side “child,” however they do not refer to their maternal nieces and nephews in this way. (Adem)


Marriage Customs:
Bambara females are usually engaged between ages of four and ten. It is very unusual for girls between the ages of twelve to sixteen to still be unsure of who they are going to marry. Rather than focusing on looks, Bambara males look for hard-working women, who cook well and are productive. (Father Joseph Henry)

High marriage costs are viewed as an investment. Marriage is a means for having children, which in turn will increase the work force and reinforce the family name. Bambara women have an average of eight children during their lifetime. The majority of women (including the elderly) are married, as a man’s status increases by having a wife. (Joshua Project)

The male “household head” finds suitable partners and arranges the marriages for all the males within the household. This includes paying the bride-price as well as arranging the wedding. Bambara culture does not permit people to marry within their own lineage. Although Bambara is patrilocal, women do keep their original lineage name after they marry. Polygamy is common among the Bambara. Additionally, it is very rare for widowed women to remain alone. After their husband passes away, she is usually inherited by another male close in the family to her husband. (Adem)