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Kinship is a term with various meanings depending upon the context. This article reflects the long-standing use of the term in anthropology, which is usually considered to refer to the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated (see below).
In other disciplines, kinship may have a different meaning. In biology, it typically refers to the degree of genetic relatedness or coefficient of relationship between individual members of a species. It may also be used in this specific sense when applied to human relationships, in which case its meaning is closer to consanguinity or genealogy.
In a more general sense, kinship may refer to a similarity or affinity between entities on the basis of some or all of their characteristics that are under focus. This may be due to a shared ontological origin, a shared historical or cultural connection, or some other perceived shared features that connect the two entities. For example, a person studying the ontological roots of human languages (etymology) might ask whether there is kinship between the English word seven and the German word sieben. It can be used in a more diffuse sense as in, for example, the news headline "Madonna feels kinship with vilified Wallis Simpson", to imply a felt similarity or empathy between two or more entities.
This article is focused on the anthropological sense of the word kinship, its referents and how these have been studied, theorized about and understood within the discipline. Within anthropology, kinship can refer both to the study of the patterns of social relationships in one or more human cultures, or it can refer to the patterns of social relationships themselves. Further, even within these two broad usages of the term, there are different approaches, which are covered below. Over its history, anthropology has developed a number of related concepts and terms, such as descent, descent groups, lineages, affines, cognates and even fictive kinship and these are treated in their own subsections here, or in linked articles.
Broadly, kinship patterns may be considered to include people related both by descent (one's social relations during development), and also relatives by marriage. Human kinship relations through marriage are commonly called "affinity" in contrast to the relationships that arise in one's group of origin, which may be called one's "descent group". In some cultures, kinship relationships may be considered to extend out to people an individual has economic relationships with, or other forms of social connections. Within a culture, the descent groups may be considered to lead back to gods (see mythology, religion), or animal ancestors totems. This may be conceived of on a more or less literal basis.
Kinship can also refer to a perceived universal principle or category of humans, by which we or our societies organize individuals or groups of individuals into social groups, roles, categories, and genealogy. Family relations can be represented concretely (mother, brother, grandfather) or abstractly after degrees of relationship. A relationship may have relative purchase (e.g., father is one regarding a child), or reflect an absolute (e.g., status difference between a mother and a childless woman). Degrees of relationship are not identical to heirship or legal succession. Many codes of ethics consider the bond of kinship as creating obligations between the related persons stronger than those between strangers, as in Confucian filial piety.
History of kinship studies 
One of the foundational works in the anthropological study of kinship was Morgan's Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family (1871)[full citation needed]. As is the case with other social sciences, Anthropology and kinship studies emerged at a time when the understanding of the Human species' comparative place in the world was somewhat different than today. Evidence that life in stable social groups is not just a feature of humans, but also of many other primates, was yet to emerge and society was considered to a be uniquely human affair. As a result, early kinship theorists saw an apparent need to explain not only the details of how human social groups are constructed, their patterns, meanings and obligations, but also why they are constructed at all. The why explanations thus typically presented the fact of life in social groups (which appeared to be unique to humans) as being largely a result of human ideas and values.
Morgan's early influence 
Morgan's explanation was largely based on the notion that all humans have an inherent natural valuation of genealogical ties (an unexamined assumption that would remain at the heart of kinship studies for another century, see below), and therefore also a inherent desire to construct social groups around these ties. Even so, Morgan found that members of a society who are not close genealogical relatives may nevertheless use what he called kinship terms (which he considered to be originally based on genealogical ties). This fact was already evident in his use of the term affinity within his concept of the system of kinship. The most lasting of Morgan's contributions was his discovery of the difference between descriptive and classificatory kinship terms, which situated broad kinship classes on the basis of imputing abstract social patterns of relationships having little or no overall relation to genetic closeness but instead cognition about kinship, social distinctions as they affect linguistic usages in kinship terminology, and strongly relate, if only by approximation, to patterns of marriage. The major patterns of kinship systems which Lewis Henry Morgan identified through kinship terminology in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family are:
- Iroquois kinship (also known as "bifurcate merging")
- Crow kinship (an expansion of bifurcate merging)
- Omaha kinship (also an expansion of bifurcate merging)
- Eskimo kinship (also referred to as "lineal kinship")
- Hawaiian kinship (also referred to as the "generational system")
- Sudanese kinship (also referred to as the "descriptive system")
There is a seventh type of system only identified as distinct later:
- Dravidian kinship (the classical type of classificatory kinship, with bifurcate merging but totally distinct from Iroquois). Most Australian Aboriginal kinship is also classificatory.
The six types (Crow, Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Omaha, Sudanese) that are not fully classificatory (Dravidian, Australian) are those identified by Murdock (1949) prior to Lounsbury's (1964) rediscovery of the linguistic principles of classificatory kin terms.
"Kinship system" as systemic pattern 
The concept of “system of kinship” tended to dominate anthropological studies of kinship in the early 20th century. Kinship systems as defined in anthropological texts and ethnographies were seen as constituted by patterns of behavior and attitudes in relation to the differences in terminology, listed above, for referring to relationships as well as for addressing others. Many anthropologists went so far as to see, in these patterns of kinship, strong relations between kinship categories and patterns of marriage, including forms of marriage, restrictions on marriage, and cultural concepts of the boundaries of incest. A great deal of inference was necessarily involved in such constructions as to “systems” of kinship, and attempts to construct systemic patterns and reconstruct kinship evolutionary histories on these bases were largely invalidated in later work. However, anthropologist Dwight Read later argued that the way in which kinship categories are defined by individual researchers are substantially inconsistent. This occurs when working within a systemic cultural model that can be elicited in fieldwork, but also allowing considerable individual variability in details, such as when they are recorded through relative products.
In trying to resolve the problems of dubious inferences about kinship "systems", George P. Murdock (1949, Social Structure) compiled kinship data to test a theory about universals in human kinship in the way that terminologies were influenced by the behavioral similarities or social differences among pairs of kin, proceeding on the view that the psychological ordering of kinship systems radiates out from ego and the nuclear family to different forms of extended family. Lévi-Strauss (1949, Les Structures Elementaires), on the other hand, also looked for global patterns to kinship, but viewed the “elementary” forms of kinship as lying in the ways that families were connected by marriage in different fundamental forms resembling those of modes of exchange: symmetric and direct, reciprocal delay, or generalized exchange.
A more flexible view of kinship was formulated in British social anthropology. Among the attempts to break out of universalizing assumptions and theories about kinship, Radcliffe-Brown (1922, The Andaman Islands; 1930, The social organization of Australian tribes) was the first to assert that kinship relations are best thought of as concrete networks of relationships among individuals. He then described these relationships, however, as typified by interlocking interpersonal roles. Malinowski (1922, Argonauts of the Western Pacific) described patterns of events with concrete individuals as participants stressing the relative stability of institutions and communities, but without insisting on abstract systems or models of kinship. Gluckman (1955, The judicial process among the Barotse of Northern Rhodesia) balanced the emphasis on stability of institutions against processes of change and conflict, inferred through detailed analysis of instances of social interaction to infer rules and assumptions. John Barnes, Victor Turner, and others, affiliated with Gluckman’s Manchester school of anthropology, described patterns of actual network relations in communities and fluid situations in urban or migratory context, as with the work of J. Clyde Mitchell (1965, Social Networks in Urban Situations). Yet, all these approaches clung to a view of stable functionalism, with kinship as one of the central stable institutions.
Contemporary kinship studies 
Building on Lévi-Strauss’s (1949) notions of kinship as caught up with the fluid languages of exchange, Edmund Leach (1961, Pul Eliya) argued that kinship was a flexible idiom that had something of the grammar of a language, both in the uses of terms for kin but also in the fluidities of language, meaning, and networks. His field studies criticized the ideas of structural-functional stability of kinship groups as corporations with charters that lasted long beyond the lifetimes of individuals, which had been the orthodoxy of British Social Anthropology. This sparked debates over whether kinship could be resolved into specific organized sets of rules and components of meaning, or whether kinship meanings were more fluid, symbolic, and independent of grounding in supposedly determinate relations among individuals or groups, such as those of descent or prescriptions for marriage. Work on symbolic kinship by David M. Schneider in his (1984, A Critique of The Study of Kinship) reinforced this view. In response to Schneider's 1984 work on Symbolic Kinship, Janet Carsten re-developed the idea of "relatedness" from her initial ideas, looking at what was socialized and biological, from her studies with the Malays (1995, The substance of kinship and the heat of the hearth; feeding, personhood and relatedness among the Malays in Pulau Langkawi, American Ethnologist). She uses the idea of relatedness to move away from a pre-constructed analytic opposition which exists in anthropological thought between the biological and the social. Carsten argued that relatedness should be described in terms of indigenous statements and practices, some of which fall outside what anthropologists have conventionally understood as kinship (Cultures of Relatedness, 2000). This kind of approach – recognizing relatedness in its concrete and variable cultural forms – exemplifies the ways that anthropologists have grappled with the fundamental importance of kinship in human society without imprisoning the fluidity in behavior, beliefs, and meanings in assumptions about fixed patterns and systems.
Beyond biological relationships 
Ideas about kinship do not necessarily assume any biological relationship between individuals, rather just close associations. Malinowski, in his ethnographic study of sexual behaviour on the Trobriand Islands noted that the Trobrianders did not believe pregnancy to be the result of sexual intercourse between the man and the woman, and they denied that there was any physiological relationship between father and child. Nevertheless, while paternity was unknown in the "full biological sense", for a woman to have a child without having a husband was considered socially undesirable. Fatherhood was therefore recognised as a social role; the woman's husband is the "man whose role and duty it is to take the child in his arms and to help her in nursing and bringing it up"; "Thus, though the natives are ignorant of any physiological need for a male in the constitution of the family, they regard him as indispensable socially".
As social and biological concepts of parenthood are not necessarily coterminous, the terms "pater" and "genitor" have been used in anthropology to distinguish between the man who is socially recognised as father (pater) and the man who is believed to be the physiological parent (genitor); similarly the terms "mater" and "genitrix" have been used to distinguish between the woman socially recognised as mother (mater) and the woman believed to be the physiological parent (genitrix). Such a distinction is useful when the individual who is considered the legal parent of the child is not the individual who is believed to be the child's biological parent. For example, in his ethnography of the Nuer, Evans-Pritchard notes that if a widow, following the death of her husband, chooses to live with a lover outside of her deceased husband's kin group, that lover is only considered genitor of any subsequent children the widow has, and her deceased husband continues to be considered the pater. As a result, the lover has no legal control over the children, who may be taken away from him by the kin of the pater when they choose. The terms "pater" and "genitor" have also been used to help describe the relationship between children and their parents in the context of divorce in Britain. Following the divorce and remarriage of their parents, children find themselves using the term "mother" or "father" in relation to more than one individual, and the pater or mater who is legally responsible for the child's care, and whose family name the child uses, may not be the genitor or genitrix of the child, with whom a separate parent-child relationship may be maintained through arrangements such as visitation rights or joint custody.
It is important to note that the terms "genitor" or "genetrix" do not necessarily imply actual biological relationships based on consanguinity, but rather refer to the socially held belief that the individual is physically related to the child, derived from culturally held ideas about how biology works. So, for example, the Ifugao may believe that an illegitimate child might have more than one physical father, and so nominate more than one genitor. J.A. Barnes therefore argued that it was necessary to make a further distinction between genitor and genitrix (the supposed biological mother and father of the child), and the actual genetic father and mother of the child.
Descent rules 
In many societies where kinship connections are important, there are rules, though they may be expressed or be taken for granted. There are four main heading Anthropologists categorize rules of descent. They are bilateral, unilineal, ambilineal and double descent.
- Bilateral descent or two sided descent affiliates an individual more or less equally with relatives on his father's and mother's sides. A good example is the Yako of the Crossriver state of Nigeria.
- Unilineal rules affiliates an individual through the descent of one sex only, that is, either males or through females. They are subdivided into two: patrilineal (male) and matrilineal (female). Most societies are often patrilineal. Example of a matrilineal system of descency are the Nyakyusa of Tanzania and the Nayar of Kerala, India. Albeit many societies that practices matrilineal system often have a patrilocal residence. Men still exercise a lot of authority.
- Ambilineal (or Cognatic) rule affiliates an individual with kinsmen through the father's or mother's line. Some people in societies practice this system affiliate with a group of relatives through their fathers and others through their mothers. The individual has the option as to which side he wants to affiliate. The Samoans of the South Pacific are an excellent example of an ambilineal society. The core members of the Samoan descent group can live together in the same compound.
- Double Descent are societies in which both the patrilineal and matrilineal descent group are recognized. In these societies an individual affiliates for some purpose with a group of patrilineal kinsmen and for other purposes with a group of matrilineal kinsmen. The most widely known case of double descent is the Afikpo of Imo state in Nigeria. Although patrilineage is considered an important method of organization, the Afikpo considers matrilineal ties to be more important.
Descent and the family 
Descent, like family systems, is one of the major concepts of anthropology. Cultures worldwide possess a wide range of systems of tracing kinship and descent. Anthropologists break these down into simple concepts about what is thought to be common among many different cultures.
Descent groups 
A descent group is a social group whose members talk about common ancestry. A unilineal society is one in which the descent of an individual is reckoned either from the mother's or the father's line of descent. With matrilineal descent individuals belong to their mother's descent group. Matrilineal descent includes the mother's brother, who in some societies may pass along inheritance to the sister's children or succession to a sister's son. With patrilineal descent, individuals belong to their father's descent group. Societies with the Iroquois kinship system, are typically uniliineal, while the Iroquois proper are specifically matrilineal.
In a society which reckons descent bilaterally (bilineal), descent is reckoned through both father and mother, without unilineal descent groups. Societies with the Eskimo kinship system, like the Eskimo proper, are typically bilateral. The egocentrid kindred group is also typical of bilateral societies.
Some societies reckon descent patrilineally for some purposes, and matrilineally for others. This arrangement is sometimes called double descent. For instance, certain property and titles may be inherited through the male line, and others through the female line.
Lineages, clans, phratries, moieties, and matrimonial sides 
A lineage is a unilineal descent group that can demonstrate their common descent from a known apical ancestor. Unilineal lineages can be matrilineal or patrilineal, depending on whether they are traced through mothers or fathers, respectively. Whether matrilineal or patrilineal descent is considered most significant differs from culture to culture.
A clan is generally a descent group claiming common descent from an apical ancestor. Often, the details of parentage are not important elements of the clan tradition. Non-human apical ancestors are called totems. Examples of clans are found in Chechen, Chinese, Irish, Japanese, Polish, Scottish, Tlingit, and Somali societies.
A phratry is a descent group composed of two or more clans each of whose apical ancestors are descended from a further common ancestor.
If a society is divided into exactly two descent groups, each is called a moiety, after the French word for half. If the two halves are each obliged to marry out, and into the other, these are called matrimonial moieties. Houseman and White (1998b, bibliography) have discovered numerous societies where kinship network analysis shows that two halves marry one another, similar to matrimonial moieties, except that the two halves—which they call matrimonial sides – are neither named nor descent groups, although the egocentric kinship terms may be consistent with the pattern of sidedness, whereas the sidedness is culturally evident but imperfect.
The word deme refers to an endogamous local population that does not have unilineal descent. Thus, a deme is a local endogamous community without internal segmentation into clans.
Nuclear family 
The Western model of a nuclear family consists of a couple and its children. The nuclear family is ego-centered and impermanent, while descent groups are permanent (lasting beyond the lifespans of individual constituents) and reckoned according to a single ancestor.
Kinship calculation is any systemic method for reckoning kin relations. Kinship terminologies are native taxonomies, not developed by anthropologists.
Beanpole family is the expansions of the number of living generations within a family unit, but each generation has relatively few members in it.
Legal ramifications 
Kinship and descent have a number of legal ramifications, which vary widely between legal and social structures.
Next of Kin traditionally and in common usage refers to the person closest related to you by blood, such as a parent or your children.
In legal terms, for example in intestacy, it has come to mean the person closest to you, which is generally the spouse if married, followed by the natural children of the deceased.
Whilst someone is alive they may nominate any person close to them to be their next of kin. The next of kin is usually asked for as a contact in case of accident, emergency or sudden death. It does not involve completing any forms or registration in the UK, and may be a friend or carer unrelated to you by blood or marriage.
Most human groups share a taboo against incest; relatives are forbidden from marriage but the rules tend to vary widely when one moves beyond the nuclear family. At common law, the prohibitions are typically phrased in terms of "degrees of consanguinity."
More importantly, kinship and descent enters the legal system by virtue of intestacy, the laws that at common law determine who inherits the estates of the dead in the absence of a will. In civil law countries, the doctrine of legitime plays a similar role, and makes the lineal descendants of the dead person forced heirs. Rules of kinship and descent have important public aspects, especially under monarchies, where they determine the order of succession, the heir apparent and the heir presumptive.
Compatibility with other sciences 
Within the biological sciences, there are theoretical approaches to understanding under what conditions some species live in groups (typically due to the distribution of key food resources and patterns of predation), and in particular, under what conditions significant social behaviors can evolve to become a typical feature of a species (Kin selection theory). Because these characteristics are common to most primates, including humans, biologists maintain that these theories should in principle be generally applicable. The question arises as to how these ideas can be applied to the human species whilst fully taking account of the extensive ethnographic evidence that has emerged from anthropological research on kinship patterns.
Early derivations of Kin selection theory and the related field of Sociobiology, encouraged some biologists such as Darwinian anthropologists and evolutionary psychologists to approach human kinship with the assumption that kin selection theory predicts that kinship relations in humans are indeed expected to depend on genetic relatedness, which they readily connected with the genealogy approach of early anthropologists such as Morgan (see above sections).
This biological position, coming at a time (the 1970s) when anthropologists were starting to reject the genealogical basis of human kinship patterns provoked criticism from ethnographers including notably, Marshall Sahlins who falsified the approach through reviews of ethnographies in his 1976 The Use and Abuse of Biology.[full citation needed] Such counter evidence and critiques did not dissuade the program however, and fundamental and heated disagreements between the two sides continued. These early disagreements over the nature of human kinship and cooperative behaviour have formed an important core of the continuing controversies related to evolutionary psychology and sociobiology ever since.
There have since been two approaches that seek to reconcile the anthropological and biological perspectives. Holland in a 2004 thesis argued that biologists themselves have not sufficiently recognised that kin selection theory does not in fact require that genetic relatedness per se is the condition that mediates social bonding and social cooperation in any species. In ancestral environments, social cooperation mediated through ties of familiarity and attachments would typically have increased the inclusive fitness of genes (the key criterion in kin selection theory) without any form of detection of actual genetic relationships. Kin selection theory in this view is seen as specifying an ultimate cause rather than a proximate cause (See Tinbergen's four questions) of social bonding and cooperation. Holland thus argues that properly understood, the findings of cultural anthropologists and the theories of evolutionary biologists are compatible.
Fitting with this approach, Nurture kinship emphasizes that social relationships, and the cooperation that accompanies them, are commonly built upon emotional bonds and attachments. This perspective re-unites current ethnographic findings both with the work of earlier anthropologists such as Audrey Richards, and also with John Bowlby and colleagues' foundational work on emotional attachment theory. In this perspective, biological theories are indeed compatible with ethnographic data on human kinship, though their explanatory scope is much narrower than the approaches of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology had typically assumed. Biology's relevant application is limited to theorizing the ultimate causes of the (non-deterministic) proximate mechanisms of cooperation such as emotional attachments. Bowlby himself emphasized the compatibility of his own work with kin selection theory. Anthropological kinship data is also thus considered compatible with current psychological theory of social bonding and relationships. In this perspective, whilst theoretical approaches are unified across biology, psychology and anthropology, for a full account of specific kinship patterns in any particular human society, ethnographic methods, including the analysis of historical contingencies, symbolic systems, economic and other influences, remain central.
The other approach, that of Evolutionary psychology, continues to take the view that genetic relatedness (or genealogy) is key to understanding human kinship patterns. A current view is that humans have an inborn but culturally affected system for detecting certain forms of genetic relatedness. One important factor for sibling detection, especially relevant for older siblings, is that if an infant and one's mother are seen to care for the infant, then the infant and oneself are assumed to be related. Another factor, especially important for younger siblings who cannot use the first method, is that persons who grew up together see one another as related. Yet another may be genetic detection based on the major histocompatibility complex (See Major Histocompatibility Complex and Sexual Selection). This kinship detection system in turn affects other genetic predispositions such as the incest taboo and a tendency for altruism towards relatives.
One issue within this approach is why many societies organize according to descent (see below) and not exclusively according to kinship. An explanation is that kinship does not form clear boundaries and is centered differently for each individual. In contrast, descent groups usually do form clear boundaries and provide an easy way to create cooperative groups of various sizes.
According to an evolutionary psychology hypothesis that assumes that descent systems are optimized to assure genetic high genetic probability of relatedness between lineage members, males should prefer a patrilineal system if paternal certainty is high; males should prefer a matrilineal system if paternal certainty is low. Some research supports this association with one study finding no patrilineal society with low paternity confidence and no matrilineal society with high paternal certainty. Another association is that pastoral societies are relatively more often patrilineal compared to horticultural societies. This may be because wealth in pastoral societies in the form of mobile cattle can easily be used to pay bride price which favor concentrating resources on sons so they can marry.
See also 
- Kin selection
- Kinship analysis
- Kinship terminology
- Australian Aboriginal kinship
- Bride price
- Bride service
- Chinese kinship
- Cinderella effect
- Darwinian anthropology
- Family history
- Fictive kinship
- Genealogy of the British Royal Family
- Interpersonal relationships
- Irish Kinship
- Nurture kinship
- Serbo-Croatian kinship
- On Kinship and Gods in Ancient Egypt: An Interview with Marcelo Campagno Damqatum 2 (2007)
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- Malinowski 1929, p. 195
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- Oke Wale, An Introduction to Social Anthropology Second Edition,Part 2, Kinship
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- Trautmann, Thomas R. (2008). Lewis Henry Morgan and the Invention of Kinship, New Edition. ISBN -13: 978-0520064577 Check
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- Introduction into the study of kinship AusAnthrop: research, resources and documentation
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- Kinship and Social Organization: An Interactive Tutorial Brian Schwimmer, University of Manitoba.
- Degrees of Kinship According to Anglo-Saxon Civil Law - Useful Chart (Kurt R. Nilson, Esq. : MyStateWill.com)
- Catholic Encyclopedia "Duties of Relatives"