Course Hero Logo


Family and Kinship

Family and Kinship Ties

Family and kinship ties exist between people who are related by biology, adoption, marriage, or close relationships.

Family entails close-knit ties people have to one another. Many different types of family bonds exist, based in part on specific cultural definitions. Generally, families are defined by blood bonds, marriage bonds, and adoption bonds. A blood bond is a relationship based on genetic ties tracing familial descent. A blood relative is a family member with a biological relationship to others in a family group. Adoption also creates a strong family bond; ties based on adoption parallel blood bonds. Marriage bonds create new ties between individuals and between families.

A kinship bond is a link based on close ties. These can exist between blood relatives, extended family, and others. Although concepts of family and kinship vary from culture to culture, family as a social institution is based on different understandings of kinship bonds that are culturally defined. In many communities and cultures, community members as well relatives by blood, adoption, and marriage are included in definitions of family.

Family and kinship bonds can have a significant impact on individuals, communities, and societies. Cultural norms and expectations shape these bonds. For instance, in Mexican and Mexican American culture a kinship system called compadrazgo, or co-parenthood, is influential in many families. Comadres (comothers) and compadres (cofathers) are adults who play an important role in a child's life and help with raising the child. They play the role that godparents play in many cultures, although scholars note the particularly deep kinship commitments that characterize the concept of compadrazgo. Multiple studies from the 21st century show that Mexican American women consider comadres key sources of support. The influence of in-law bonds, ties created by marriage, are another example of the way kinship bonds can impact people. A 2012 study that tracked 373 U.S. couples for over two decades found that when husbands had close relationships with in-laws, couples were less likely to divorce. This particular type of kinship bond appears to contribute to American marriages, influencing to some extent whether or not they succeed.

Kin, Kinship, and Kinship Groups

Kinship implies the feeling of being deeply and intimately connected to other people.
Family and kinship are interrelated concepts. Kinship refers to ties among families or networks of families. A wide variety of kinship ties exist, including consanguineal, affinal, and fictive kinship. Consanguineal kin are people related to each other through biology. Affinal kin are people related through marriage. Fictive kin are people who consider each other to have a family bond although their relationship involves neither biological nor marriage bonds. Kinship groups can also be defined by the degree of relationship people have to one another, based on birth, adoption, and marriage. Primary kinship ties are those between parents and children, spouses, and siblings. Secondary kinship ties include more extended family relationships, such as those between grandparents and grandchildren. Tertiary kinship ties extend to more distant relatives, including great-grandparents and distant cousins. However, it is important to note that different cultures and societies understand and define these relationships in different ways. Even communities within a society, or individual families, may have different concepts of what constitutes a family. Primary, secondary, and tertiary ties have different degrees of importance in different societies.
Types of Kinship Groups
Primary Mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, daughter, son
Secondary Grandparents, grandchildren, in-laws, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, first cousins
Tertiary Great-grandparents, great-grandchildren, great-aunts, great-uncles, great-nieces, great-nephews, distant cousins