Types of Family & Kin Relationships Video

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  • 0:02 All in the Family
  • 0:44 Types of Family
  • 2:19 Kinship
  • 3:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore several types of family and kinship relationships that are used across the world and across time. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

All in the Family

Throughout the history of humanity, there are actually only a few things that unite everybody. So much of our lives are determined by our cultural values that there are hundreds of ways for people to live. But there is one thing that every person in history has in common. We were all born. Being born is very useful. And that means that we all had parents, relatives, and other people who cared for us. We may not all have known our parents, but everybody had someone take care of them. Everyone across history had some form of family or another. Who we are, how we were raised, where we are going; it's all in the family.

Types of Family

A family, at its most basic, is a group of people affiliated by genes or living situation. The simplest form of family is called the conjugal family. A conjugal family includes one husband, one wife, and their biological children. In American history, this was sometimes called a nuclear family. Conjugal families are generally assumed to have parents who are legally married. This was a major trend for a while, but in recent years has diminished, as other forms of family rise in prominence.

An extended family is another very common form of family, and refers to genetic family members beyond parents and children. Extended families often include grandparents, uncles or aunts, and cousins. Extended families often share resources and commonly live together.

One of the quickest growing forms of family is the blended family. A blended family consists of members who are not all genetically connected. A very common example of this is when parents get divorced and marry new spouses. One parent may not be genetically related to the children, and children may not be completely related to each other. They are still a family, but it is not considered a conjugal family.

In between conjugal, extended, and blended families are dozens of degrees of variation. Some families only have one parent, instead of two. Historically, some cultures allowed men to have multiple wives. Domestic partnership is another way for people to be legally considered a family because they live together, but are not formally married. There are many, many forms of family.


Social relationship as defined by family and genetics are called kinship networks. In many cultures, kinship is both a way to organize groups and to track lineages. Kinship very often comes with a series of rules and expectations. For example, a son may have a responsibility to his mother in one culture or to his uncles in another. Overall, people within a kinship network are expected to look out for each other.

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