Kinship is the most fundamental concept for grouping people into social roles, categories, and roles. It is universal and plays an important role in individual socialisation as well as group cohesiveness. It is extremely significant in primitive civilizations, influencing practically every aspect of their lives – social, economic, political, religious, and so on. Every human community has some type of organisation based on parentage and marriage. The dominance of the market economy and the availability of state-organized social services has eroded family structures in modern industrial communities.

Kinship is one of the society’s key structuring concepts. It is one of the most fundamental institutions in any community. This organisation is responsible for establishing relationships between individuals and groups. People in all communities are connected by a variety of links. Marriage and reproduction are the most fundamental ties.

In Anthropology, the concept of “kinship” is crucial. Kinship relationships are so extensive, basic, and influential in simple communities that they effectively form the “social system.” In increasingly complex civilizations, however, kinship often accounts only a small portion of the overall number of social relationships that make up the social system. Except in the study of family sociology, sociologists do not place a high value on it.

People related by descents – i.e., social interactions during development – and marriage might be termed kinship patterns in general. In contrast to the relationships that arise in one’s group of origin, which are usually known as blood relations, human kinship relations through marriage are commonly referred to as “affinity.”

Types of Kinship

Kinship can be classified broadly into two types:

  1. Affinal Kinship, and
  2. Consanguineous Kinship.
  1. AFFINAL KINSHIP: Marriage is referred to as affinal kinship. When a person marries, he forms a bond with not only the female with whom he is marrying, but also with a number of other members of the girl’s family. Furthermore, not only the person marrying is connected to the girl’s family members, but his family members are also bound to the girl’s family members.
  2. CONSANGUINEOUS KINSHIP: Consanguineous kinship refers to a blood relationship. The consanguineous kin are blood relatives. Consanguineous kinship exists between parents and their children, as well as between siblings.

The true father of a kid is unknown among polyandrous tribes. Adopted children are handled as though they were biologically produced children. As a result, a blood tie can be created not only on a biological but also on a social level.

Degree of Kinship

Kinship is divided into three levels, which can be explained as follows:

  • PRIMARY KINSHIP: Direct relations are referred to as primary kinship. Primary kin are people who are genetically connected to each other.

There are two types of primary kinship:

1. Primary Consanguineal Kinship: Primary consanguineal kin are blood relatives who are linked by birth. Primary kinship is formed by the bonds between parents and children, as well as siblings. In all communities around the world, these are the sole basic consanguineal relatives.

2. Primary Affinal Kinship: The direct tie developed as a result of marriage is referred to as primary affinal kinship. The tie between husband and wife is the only direct affinal kinship.

  • SECONDARY KINSHIP: The primary kin of primary kin is referred to as secondary kinship. To put it another way, individuals who are linked to one’s primary kin become secondary kin.

There are two types of secondary kinship:

1. Secondary Consanguineal kinship: This form of kinship relates to the primary consanguineal kin’s primary consanguineal kin. The link between grandparents and grandchildren is the most basic form of secondary consanguineal kinship.

2. Secondary Affinal Kinship: One’s primary affinal kin is referred to as secondary affinal kin. The relationships between an individual and all of his or her sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and parents-in-law are included in this kinship.


Tertiary kinship refers to the primary kin of secondary kin.

Tertiary kinship also has two categories:

  1. Tertiary Consanguineal Kinship: Tertiary consanguineal kinship refers to an individual’s primary consanguineal kin (parents), their primary kin (parents’ parents), and their primary kin (parent’s parent’s parents). Thus, the relationship is between great grandchildren and great grandparents, and great grand aunts and uncles, and consequently the relationship between great grand uncles and aunts and great grand nieces and nephews.
  2. Tertiary Affinal Kinship:

Tertiary affinal kinship refers to primary affinal kin’s primary kin’s primary kin, or secondary affinal kin’s primary kin, or primary affinal kin’s secondary kin. These relationships are many, and some examples will suffice at this stage of tertiary affinal kin can be spouse’s grandparents, or grand uncles and aunts, or they can be brother or sister-in-law’s spouses or their children.

Kinship Terms

Kinship terms are those terms which are used in designating kin of various types. Morgan made an important study of kinship terms.

He classified these terms into:

  1. Classificatory system,
  2. Descriptive system.

  Under the classificatory system the various kins are included in one category and all referred to by   the same term. Thus, the term ‘uncle’ is a classificatory term.


One term in the descriptive system relates to only one relationship. It expresses a person’s exact relationship with another. Father, for example, is a descriptive term. Similarly, the term “mother” is a descriptor. It should be noted that neither the pure descriptive nor the pure classificatory systems are utilised anywhere in the globe. Both of these systems are widely used.

  • Kinship Usages: There are some usages that control the behaviour of various kin. Kinship usages are what they’re termed.

The following are a few examples of these applications:

  • AVOIDANCE: This signifies that the two kins should keep their distance from one another. To put it another way, they should stay away from each other. They should avoid not only sexual relationships, but also seeing one other’s faces in some circumstances. As a result, a father-in-law should stay away from his daughter-in-law. The Hindu family’s purdah system exemplifies the use of avoidance.
  • JOKING RELATIONSHIP: It’s the polar opposite of the avoidance relationship. It allows one relative to mock or make fun of the other. The relationship between devar-bhabhi, jija-sali is joking relationship.
  • TEKNONYMY: Taylor was the first to use the term “teknonymy” in anthropology. It was derived from a Greek word. A kin is not directly referred to in this usage; instead, he is referred to through another kin. Between two kins, a kin serves as a point of reference. As a result, in a traditional Hindu family, a wife does not mention her husband’s name. She communicates with him via her son or daughter.
  • AVUNCLATE: The matriarchal system is notable for its use of kinship. It elevates the maternal uncle’s status in the eyes of his nephews and nieces. He owes them particular responsibilities that go beyond those owed to him by his father. He has first claim to their allegiances. He comes first among all male relatives.
  • AMITATE: When the father’s sister is given a specific function, it is referred to as amitate. The mother is treated with less respect than the father’s sister.
  • COUVADE: When a woman gives birth to a child, the husband is forced to live the life of an invalid with his wife. He avoids active work and eats a sick diet. He observes the same taboos that his wife observes. The husband and wife are thus involved in this familial usage.

Importance of Kinship

• The kinship structure keeps relationships together, harmonious, and cooperative.

• Kinship establishes rules for interpersonal communication and interaction.

• Where there is a marital taboo, it determines who can marry whom.

• Kinship influences the behaviour of members of the same family.

• Kinship serves as a social watchdog.

• In rural areas or tribal societies, kinship determines the family’s rights and obligations, as well as the system of production and political authority.

• It enables people to gain a better understanding of their interpersonal relationships.

• It strengthens and promotes society by allowing people to better relate to one another.


In the end, kinship will always resist full comprehension because it speaks the language of intimacy rather than set institutions, and its manifestations change as cultures create new paths of connectedness.

Aishwarya Says:

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