Kinship tells us how we are related to our family or each other, through our biology and history. Kinship can be a complex system of social groups. It is a universal system as everyone has a family. Some small and large scale societies use kinship not only for human reproduction but for “economic transactions, the political system and [their] religious beliefs” (J.Hendry, 1999).
The anthropologist Lewis Henry-Morgan was the founder of kinship studies. He watched the Iroquois, a Native American group in the North eastern United States. He was mostly interested in what was keeping societies together. He was the first to state the different types of kinship systems that exist, in his book, called ‘Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family’.
There are two main types of kinship:
‘Consanguine’- to be related by blood. ‘Affine’- not related by blood but by social processes, like marriage.
We can also be related just by sharing space and time together over a long period of time. For example, the couvade, which is when the husband imitates the restrictions, the wife has during pregnancy (L.Rival, 1998).
There are two types of descent involved in kinship:-
‘Patrilineal’- the relations come from the father’s blood line. ‘Matrilineal’- the relations come from the mother’s blood line.
• C. Delaney. (2004). ‘Relatives and Relations’: Investigating Culture. Oxford: Blackwell. p.192.
• J. Hendry. (1999). ‘Family, Kinship and Marriage’: An Introduction to Social Anthropology. London Palgrave.
• L. Rival. (1998). ‘Androgenous Parents and Guest Children’: The Huaorani Couvade. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Vol.4: p.619-642.
Examples of kinship [change]
- parent (father or mother)
- child (son or daughter)
- sibling (brother or sister)
- grandparent (grandfather or grandmother)
- grandchild (grandson or granddaughter)
- uncle or aunt
- nephew or niece