Kinship, Descent, Phratry, Moiety, Clan, and Lineage

Kinship, Descent, Phratry, Moiety, Clan, and Lineage

This article contains notes on Kinship, Descent, Phratry, Moiety, Clan, and Lineage concepts.

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Meaning of Kinship

  • Definition: Kinship refers to the social relationships and roles that are based on blood, marriage, or adoption.
  • Importance: It plays a crucial role in structuring social groups and influencing individual behavior within societies.

Types of Kinship

  1. Consanguineous Kinship:

    • Relationships based on blood ties.
    • Includes parents, siblings, and extended family.
  2. Affinal Kinship:

    • Relationships based on marriage or other forms of alliance.
    • Involves in-laws and relationships established through marriage.
  3. Fictive Kinship:

    • Non-biological relationships treated as if they were kin.
    • Examples include godparents, close family friends.

Categories or Degrees of Kinship

  • Primary Kinship: Direct relationships like parents, siblings.
  • Secondary Kinship: Extended family relations like aunts, uncles, cousins.
  • Tertiary Kinship: Distant relatives beyond the extended family.

Kinship Terms

  • Lineal Terms: Describe relationships in a direct line (parent, child, grandparent).
  • Collateral Terms: Describe relationships outside the direct line (uncle, cousin).
  • Affinal Terms: Describe relationships by marriage (in-law).

Kinship Usages

  1. Ceremonial Functions:

    • Kinship guides rituals, ceremonies, and rites of passage.
    • Examples: weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies.
  2. Economic Functions:

    • Influence economic exchanges, inheritance, and property rights.
    • Determines resource distribution within the family.
  3. Social Functions:

    • Shapes social roles and responsibilities within the family unit.
    • Establishes norms for behavior and interaction.


Rules of Descent

  1. Patrilineal Descent:

    • Traced through the male line.
    • Inheritance and family name pass through the father.
  2. Matrilineal Descent:

    • Traced through the female line.
    • Inheritance and family name pass through the mother.
  3. Bilateral Descent:

    • Recognizes kinship through both maternal and paternal lines.
    • Egalitarian in terms of inheritance.

Concepts in Descent Systems

  1. Phratry:

    • A grouping of clans based on kinship.
    • Collaborative in rituals, ceremonies, and social functions.
  2. Moiety:

    • Division of a society into two complementary parts.
    • Often associated with specific roles or functions.
  3. Clan:

    • A group of people with a common ancestor.
    • Shared lineage and often a totemic symbol.
  4. Lineage:

    • Direct descent from a common ancestor.
    • More immediate than a clan, often traced through fewer generations.

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