Other Unisex Associations Besides Age Sets

Age-sets are not the most common unisex associations in noncommercial societies. Many societies have male associations with initiation rites that provide a dramatic (and often traumatic) way for boys to become transformed from "boys" to "manhood." These men's groups often have a building where initiates and adult men may meet and sleep. A number of ideas have been put forward to explain male initiation ceremonies, ranging from a way to help boys resolve psychological conflicts in sex-role identification (Burton & Whiting, 1961; Whiting,

Kluckhohn, & Anthony, 1958), to promoting male solidarity for cooperative purposes (Young, 1965), to providing the equivalent of basic army training (M. Ember, 1967b). There is some evidence to support all of these interpretations.

Women's associations are not that common in noncommercial societies. But in some partly commercialized economies, such as in West Africa, women's associations are common. Many of these associations, such as rotating credit associations (Ardener & Burman, 1995), help women obtain money for economic enterprises. While these associations are often for women of the same ethnic background, in Papua New Guinea some of the associations link thousands of women from different tribal areas (Warry, 1986).

In complex commercial-industrial societies, there are many types of voluntary associations. Some are explicitly unisex (like the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts), but more often than not these voluntary associations are what political science and sociology call "interest groups" (e.g., political or professional associations), not restricted to one gender.

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