kinship, relationship by blood (consanguinity) or marriage (affinity) between persons; also, in anthropology and sociology, a system of rules, based on such relationships, governing descent, inheritance, marriage, extramarital sexual relations, and sometimes residence. All societies recognize consanguineal and affinal ties between individuals, but there is great divergence in the manner of reckoning descent and relationship. Kinship patterns are so specific and elaborate that they constitute an important and independent field of anthropological and sociological investigation. In many societies the concept of kinship extends beyond family ties, which vary in breadth and inclusiveness, to less precisely defined groupings such as the clan, where consanguinity is often hypothetical if not actually mythological. As a rule, however, these groups maintain incest taboos as strict as those for close biological relatives.
See R. Fox, Kinship and Marriage (1967); I. Buchler and H. A. Selby, Kinship and Social Organization (1968); B. Farber, Comparative Kinship Systems (1968); J. R. Goody, Comparative Studies in Kinship (1969).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.