Kinship‏ Systems


The anthropological term kinship entails all human relations or connections by blood, marriage or adoption. Seven major patterns of kinship systems of the human family can be identified through anthropological and ethnic terminology:

  • Eskimo kinship (lineal kinship)
  • Hawaiian kinship (generational system)
  • Sudanese kinship (descriptive system)
  • Iroquois kinship (bifurcate merging)
  • Crow kinship (expansion of bifurcate merging)
  • Omaha kinship (expansion of bifurcate merging)

All systems listed below have a nuclear family in which everything is viewed from a person called Ego; he or she has a brother and a sister, a mother and a father. All supplementary descriptions (listed below) explain the uniqueness of the respective kinship system.

Eskimo: Ego has a mother and a father, a brother and a sister. Siblings of Ego’s mother and father are known as aunts and uncles, all of their children are cousins. In short, this is the common European kinship system. (lineal kinship)

Hawaiian: All cousins are brothers and sisters of Ego. Also, all aunts and uncles are mothers and fathers of Ego. Basically, Ego’s entire family consists mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters. (generational system)

Sudanese: Ego has no aunts or uncles but father’s brothers and sisters, and mother’s brothers and sisters instead. The children of these people are paternal and maternal cousins to Ego; the paternal and maternal cousins who are children of Ego’s father’s brother and Ego’s mother’s sister are parallel cousins, the paternal and maternal cousins who are children of Ego’s father’s sister and Ego’s mother’s brother are cross cousins. (descriptive system)

The Iroquois, Crow, and Omaha kinship systems have the following in common: Ego has a mother and a father, a brother and a sister. The sisters of Ego’s mother are Ego’s mother as well, the brothers of Ego’s father are Ego’s father also. All children of Ego’s mothers and fathers are his sisters and brothers. The brothers of Ego’s mother and the sisters of Ego’s father are Ego’s uncles and aunts respectively.

Iroquois: The children of Ego’s uncle and aunt are Ego’s cousins. (bifurcate merging)

Crow: The children of Ego’s uncle are Ego’s cousins; the female children of Ego’s aunt are Ego’s aunts as well, the male children of Ego’s aunt are Ego’s fathers. (expansion of bifurcate merging)

Omaha: The children of Ego’s aunt are Ego’s cousins; the male children of Ego’s uncle are Ego’s uncle as well, the female children of Ego’s uncle are Ego’s mothers. (expansion of bifurcate merging)

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1 thought on “Kinship‏ Systems

  1. Pingback: Kinship/Fostering a family member | auntiemama

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