Kinship || Social Institution || Bcis Notes

Kinship || Social Institution || Bcis Notes


Kinship is an important domain of anthropological research. It is a strong and powerful social institution within certain kin and kiths respectively. Simply, the bond of blood or affinal(related to marriage) relationship that binds the people together as a group is called kinship.

Group solidarity, kinship aliens, and integrity among the members help in cementing them together as distinct groups supported by close relations. It is one of the basic social institutions. Its holding is strong in Rural and Agriculture based society. But, in more complex societies kinship normally forms a fairly small part of the totality of the social relation which makes up the social system.

A. Definitions of Kinship

  • Robin Fox, “ Kinship is simply the relations between kin that is persons related by real, putative or fictive consanguinity.”
  • John J. Macionis defines Kinship as, “a social bond based on blood, marriage or adoption.”

How does Kinship develop in society?

1. When two sex Male and Females marry in society, the kinship is evolved,

  • when the children are born from parents, a kinship between brother and sister also develop. After the children grew up, they also get married and a newer kinship relationship is added.

2. Besides this, a kinship relationship is established through fictive friendship and adopted children.

  • Along with kinship, Changes also occur in social relationships, behavior, practice, and cooperation.
  • A single individual can be associated with various kinship relationships. For example; Father can be a son of another, Husband of others, brother of another, Nephew of other, Cousin of another, Father in the law of others, etc.

Thus, the responsibility of an individual varies according to the kinship relationship, which may differ as per society, culture, context, and time. None of society is excluded from a kinship relationship.

B. Types of Kinship:

Major Types:

  • Primary kins
  • Secondary kins
  • Tertiary kins

1. Primary kins:

  • They have a very close relation either through consanguineous or affinal knots. The relationship between father-son, mother-son, and the relationships between their siblings are some illustrations of it.

Consanguine Kinship: We find blood relationships in this kinship. It depends on the lineage kinship that develops through birth. Eg. Mother and son/Daughter, Father and Son/daughter, the relationship between brother and sister, Uncle and Nephews, etc.

Affinal Kinship: Any relationship that is established through marriage is Affinal Kinship.
Eg- the relationship between husband and wife, Daughter in law and mother-in-law, brother’s wife, Husband Brother/Sister, etc.

2. Secondary kins

  • It prevails particularly outside of the nuclear family.
  • For instance, the relationship between the mother’s father, father’s brother or sister, and his relatives.

3. Tertiary kins

  • It refers to the secondary kins of our primary kins. They are far but relatives.
  • It is a practice in our society that there is a provision of relations until the 11’th generation.
  • All clan-based relatives and affinal-based relatives are called Tertiary relatives.

C. Major Usages of Kinship

Kinship uses or the rule of kinship is Significant in understanding the kinship system: Kinship Uses serve two main purposes. They create groups or special groupings of kins. Kinship rule governs the role of the relationship among the kins.

  • Rule of Avoidance
  • Teknonymy
  •  Avunculate
  • Amitate
  • Joking relationship
  • Couvade

Rule of Avoidance:

According to Murdock, Rules of Avoidance exists because they reinforce incest taboos.

  • In almost all societies avoidance rules prescribe that men and women must maintain a certain amount of modesty In dress, speech, behavior, and gait(a particular way of walking), mixed Company, etc.
  • Avoidance means that two Kins normally of the opposite sex should avoid each other in some respects.
  • Eg- ‘Father in law should avoid daughter in law.
  • In Hinduism. Similarly, the Wife is not supposed to call her husband’s name.
    The avoidance rules serve to stop the development of complications of relations between the parties concerned.


  • According to these usages, kin is not referred directly but is referred through another kin.
  • Eg- If Hindu married women want to address her husband she alters the name and calls as a father of so and so (her children’s Name)
  • In the Hopi community daughter in law calls or addresses her mother-in-law as a grandmother of so and so…
    Found in Australia, China, Africa, etc.

Avunculate(helpful/friendly to younger children):

  • It is used in which relationship persists in some societies between a man and his mother’s brother(Mama). Our proverb says ‘aama pachiko mama‘ that shows his role.
  • This usage gives importance to the Maternal Uncle in the life of his Nephews and Nieces (Popular in Maternal Family)


  •  This usage gives a special role to fathers’ sisters, Comparing to mothers, a father’s sister is considered as more important.
  • Among Toads of Nilgiri, Crow Indians the child gets the name, not through his/her parents but father’s sister.

Joking relationship:

  • It involves a particular combination of Friendliness and Antagonism between individuals and groups in a certain social situation.
  • Chapple and Coon have said, “Joking relationships help the individuals to develop intimacy and closeness among themselves.”
  • In this relation individual and groups is allowed to moke or, ridicule the other with the ought offense being taken.
  • The use of Joking relation permits to tease and make fun.
  • Eg- In Orissa and Baigas of Madhya Pradesh, such a relation prevails between Grandparents and grandchildren.
  • Majumdar and Madan have Quoted the example of a case in which a grandfather had married his granddaughter and got a child.


  • Under this usage, the husband is made to lead the life of an invalid along with his wife until she gives birth to the child.
  • It only involves a husband and wife. He refrains from active work and a sick diet. Also, he observes the same taboos observed by his wife.
  • Found in Karibs of Africa.

In gist,

  • It helps to govern the role relationships and kin members; that is how one kinsman should behave in a particular situation accordingly.
  • It provides certain guidelines for interactions in a proper and acceptable manner.
  • It is a well-patterned way of code of conduct and behavioral aspects institutionalized for better relationships.

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