The Bilateral Kindred

All societies construct their kinship systems and define social groups, roles and relationships on the basis of a bilateral network formed through combinations of marriage and parentage ties. In some societies, the extended bilateral network, termed a kindred, forms a recognized social group, as in the case of many early medieval cultures. In contemporary European cultures, bilateral kinship is dominant, but no recognizable groups are formed. In many non-Western societies emphasis is placed on exclusive descent through male or female relatives as was also the case in ancient Israel and Rome. Nevertheless, these unilineal systems, also recognize kinship relationships that are not incorporated into direct male and female lines.

The diagram below represents a bilaterally extended kindred which forms a template for tracing a variety of kinship relationships from an egocentric, or individually centered perspective.

An Egocentric Bilateral Kindred

Figure 2: bilateral kindred

The diagram above charts out a short range of Ego's consanguineal kin (literally "blood" relatives), to whom he is related by birth. He will also have important relationships with affines or affinal relatives (not shown on this diagram) linked by his own marriage or that of one of his consanguines.

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© 1995 Brian Schwimmer
University of Manitoba
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