Kinship and Descent">

Kinship and Descent

Kinship and Descent, human relations based on biological descent and marriage. Kinship is founded on social differences and cultural creations. In all societies, the links between blood relatives and relatives by marriage are assigned certain legal, political, and economic significance that does not depend on biology.

Descent Systems

At the basis of kinship is the primary

At the basis of kinship is the primary mother-child bond to which diverse cultures have added different familial relations. Additional kin are recruited to this basic unit by the principle of descent, which connects one generation to the other in a systematic way and which determines certain rights and obligations across generations. Descent groups can be traced through both sexes (that is, ambilaterally) or through only the male or the female link (unilaterally). In unilaterally traced groups the descent is known as patrilineal if the connection is through the male line or matrilineal if it is through the female line.

Less frequent forms for tracing descent

Less frequent forms for tracing descent are the parallel system, in which males and females each trace their ancestry through their own sex; and the cognatic method, in which the relatives of both sexes are considered, with little formal distinction between them.

Succession and Inheritance

The study of kinship has directed much

The study of kinship has directed much attention to the terms people use to classify and identify their relatives. Kin are everywhere categorized into distinct groups with specific roles and behavior.

The way in which people classify their

The way in which people classify their kin has many practical applications. Thus, the familial relationships peculiar to a society will largely determine the allocation of rights and their transmission from one generation to the next. The succession of office and titles and the inheritance of property are implicit in the kinship system. Property can pass across generations in several ways, as, for example, from the mother`s brother to the sister`s son (in matrilineal societies); from the father to the father`s younger brother (in some patrilineal cultures); or from the father to his son (in many patrilineal societies).

In some societies

In some societies, kinship terms may also indicate how the family is split over the inheritance of goods and property. The Iatmul of New Guinea, for instance, assign five different terms to designate the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth child. In any quarrels over patrimony, the first and third children are expected to join forces against the second and the fourth.

Theories of Kinship

The evolution of kinship and its terminology

The evolution of kinship and its terminology has interested anthropologists since the 19th century, when the American anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan developed his theory of kinship. Morgan held that kinship terminology used in nonliterate societies reflected a low level of culture and that the terminology common in civilized societies indicated an advanced stage of development. This theory was abandoned when the discovery was made that the limited number of kinship systems in use are found among both technologically simple and advanced peoples.

Some nonevolutionary theories see kinship

Some nonevolutionary theories see kinship terms as a result of culture borrowings and modifications, as a means of understanding aspects of the history of a particular society, or even as a linguistic phenomenon. The most common anthropological view, however, is a functional one that relates kinship terms to contemporary behavior. In this theory, the terms are considered tools for understanding the ties betweenand values ofpeople in any given society.

Kinship is important in anthropological

Kinship is important in anthropological study because it is a universal phenomenon. It connotes certain basic human attachments made by all people, and it reflects the way in which people give meaning and ascribe importance to human interactions.

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