Hawaiian kinship

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Hawaiian kinship, also referred to as the generational system, is a kinship system used to define family. Identified by Lewis H. Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Hawaiian system is one of the six major kinship systems (Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Crow, Omaha, and Sudanese).[citation needed]

Kinship system[edit]

Graphic of the Hawaiian kinship system

Within common typologies, the Hawaiian system is the simplest classificatory system of kinship. In it, differences are distinguished by generation and by gender. There is a parental generation and a generation of children. In this system, a person (called Ego in anthropology) refers to all females of his parents' generation as "Mother" and all of the males as "Father". In the generation of children, all brothers and male cousins are referred to as "Brother", all sisters and female cousins as "Sister".

The Hawaiian system is usually associated with ambilineal descent groups. It is found in approximately one third of the world's societies, although these are usually small societies.[1]


The Hawaiian system is named for the pre-contact kinship system of Native Hawaiian people in the Hawaiian Islands. Today the Hawaiian system is most common among Malayo-Polynesian-speaking cultures; the Hawaiian language itself is Malayo-Polynesian.

This form of kinship is frequent in societies with ambilineal descent groups, where economic production and child-rearing are shared.

See also[edit]


  • William Haviland, Cultural Anthropology, Wadsworth Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-534-27479-X
  • "The nature of kinship", University of Palomar
  • Archnet: Hawaiian kinship