Criteria of Kinship Classification

Published 16 Mar 2017

In familial relations, one could not deny that there seems to be a labeling among the kin. It was studied that these criteria are used for the basic kinship systems. The criteria are generation, gender, lineality vs. collaterality, consanguineal vs. affinal kin, relative age, sex of the connecting relative, social condition, and side of the family (Wallace). The criteria mentioned above would not be discussed thoroughly but six of these criteria will be briefly discussed in this particular paper.

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The first term which is highly popular is the criterion of generation. It was said that in this criteria, the generation of the kin is usually distinguished. Take for example the Europe-American societies; they use the term father, mother, etc. as belonging to the parental generation and so on and so forth (Srivastava). The second criterion is the gender or sex. It could be inferred that this criteria would generally refer to the sex of the member of the kin. In the English system a good example of this is the aunt and uncle where these pertain to a parent’s brother and sister respectively. The third criterion is the relative age. Here, some cultures have different labels for those having different ages. One could have a different term for the older brother and the younger brother. And these labels could stretch on. The fourth criterion is the consanguineal vs. affinal kin. This is where terms are given depending on the directness or indirectness of the speaker’s relationship. It would then be about “kinship based on descent and kinship resulting from marriage (Srivastava).” The fifth criterion is the side of the family or bifurcation. These is when a person distinguishes which side of the family a kin belongs; if he/she belongs to the mother’s or father’s side. The last criterion to be discussed is the sex of the connected/linking relative. It is here that the distinction between the parallel (same sex) and the cross (opposite sex). A good example of this is the parallel-cousin where they are either the father’s brother’s son/daughter or the mother’s sister’s son/daughter. On the other hand, cross-cousins are either your father’s sister’s son/daughter or mother’s brother’s son/daughter.


Srivastava, A.R.N. Essentials of Cultural Anthropology. New Delhi: Prentice-Hall of India, 2005.
Wallace, Tim. “Kinship and Descent”.

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