Sociology Index


Kinship Structure refers to the way social relationships between individuals related by blood, affinal ties or socially defined connection are organized and normatively regulated. Kinship structure is the central organizational principle of many traditional societies, since it is through the kinship structure that social placement, cultural transmission and many functional necessities for life will be met. Kinship bonds are generally defined more broadly and extensively in traditional societies than in modern capitalist societies. Because of unprecedented increases in longevity, the kinship structure has been transformed. Linkages among family members have been prolonged, and the surviving generations in a family have increased in number and complexity. Affinal Kinship occurs through marriage. Unlike blood relatives, affinal Kinship is based upon legality or contract.

What is kinship? Kinships are culturally defined relationships between individuals having family ties. Kinship is actually culturally constructed. Consanguineal relatives are related by blood. Affinal relatives are related through marriage. Fictive kinship are kin-like relations but not actually based upon blood or marriage. Godparents or coparents who are called compadrazgo in Latin America, like aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters.

Functions of kinship include:
Binding together successive generations, thereby providing social continuity.
Passing on property, political office, and tradition.
Tying people together across a single generation through marriage practices.

Kinship Structure and Process

The first part of the course contrasts the 'descent theory' and 'alliance theory' paradigm which dominated anthropological approaches to kinship from the 1940s until the 1970s. This split is shown to exemplify broader differences in theoretical approach towards the study of anthropology more generally. The second part of the course examines some of the ways in which people in different societies conceptualise and live out relatedness. It shows how notions about relatedness are linked to concepts of the person, notions about gender, and theories of procreation which may be radically different from our own. Kinship has long been regarded as the core of the anthropological discipline, although the extent to which this is still the case is questionable.

Changing Kinship Structure and its Implications for Old-Age Support in Urban and Rural China, Jiang L. - This study explores the ramifications of China's imminent population aging at the family and kinship level - by simulating China's evolving family and kinship structure. Today's kinship structure can be viewed in a new way: as a latent web of continually shifting linkages that provide the potential for activating and intensifying close family relationships.

On Kinship Structure, Female Autonomy, and Demographic Behavior in India - Tim Dyson and Mick Moore. Abstract: The main states of India are broadly grouped into two demographic regimes. In contrast to states in the north, southern states are characterized by lower marital fertility, later age at marriage, lower infant and child mortality, and comparatively low ratios of female to male infant and child mortality. The division between the two regimes broadly coincides with the division between areas of northern kinship/low female autonomy and southern kinship/high female autonomy.

Increased inbreeding and strong kinship structure in Taxus baccata estimated from both AFLP and SSR data.
Chybicki IJ1, Oleksa A, Burczyk J. Heredity (Edinb). 2011 Dec;107(6):589-600. Abstract: Habitat fragmentation can have severe genetic consequences for trees, such as increased inbreeding and decreased effective population size. Results showed that, in spite of high dispersal potential (bird-mediated seed dispersal and wind-mediated pollen dispersal), English yew populations show strong kinship structure, with a spatial extent of 50-100 m, depending on the population. Several patterns were evident:

(1) AFLP markers showed stronger kinship structure than SSRs;

(2) AFLP markers provided higher inbreeding estimates than SSRs; and

(3) kinship structure and inbreeding were more pronounced in denser populations regardless of the marker used. Our results suggest that, because both kinship structure and (bi-parental) inbreeding exist in populations of English yew, gene dispersal can be fairly limited in this species.

Seminar on Kinship and Demographic Behavior - Salt Lake City, Utah -

Scholars from several disciplines have focused on the role of kinship structure and its effects on population dynamics. Historians of population have demonstrated the importance of the kinship network to understand demographic and social processes. Historical demographers have closely examined kinship networks in historical societies where kinship is thought to have been a major organizing principle of social groupings.

There are a number of inquiries that are using concepts that draw upon these various approaches. For example, kinship structure or early family events have been studied in terms of their effects on outcomes including health, fertility, and mortality. These studies of kinship have stimulated new analytical approaches and have produced findings that are among the most innovative and productive lines of inquiry in population history and social history.

Dagestan in Russia is relatively peaceful because there is a tradition in which political structures trump kinship structures, such as clans. Now an ethnic group and ethnic identity is a kinship structure, just as a clan. So when Dagestan’s thirty-plus ethnic groups were organized within the Russian empire, within the Republic of Dagestan, within the Soviet Union, and within the Russian Federation, all of these larger political structures were, from a Dagestani perspective, essentially the djamaat writ large.

Kinship structure and health-care improvement in sub-Saharan Africa.
Katabarwa MN, Richards FO Jr, Rakers L. - Lancet. 2004 Jun 26; 363(9427): 2194.