Kinship Types and Examples

Tandi Carignan, Jessica Whittemore
  • Author
    Tandi Carignan

    Tandi Carignan is a 15 year veteran teaching science at the high school and advanced placement level and was named 2006 Teacher of the Year in her district. Her Masters Degree from Eastern Connecticut State University is in Secondary Science Education and a BS from the University of Connecticut in Environmental Marine Biology. She holds a Connecticut teacher certification with Endorsements in Biology.

  • Instructor
    Jessica Whittemore

    Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

Learn about affinal kinship, collateral relatives, and lineal kinship. Understand the different forms of grouped kinship relations, and find examples. Updated: 04/14/2022

Meaning of Kinship

Kinship refers to relationships within a community or family. These family ties bond people together in a society and provide organization and structure for relationships. These bonds, created by marriage, reproduction, adoption, and occasionally social structures, can provide a social hierarchy and can even be legally binding. For example, kinship can also be used to establish social norms for guidelines and communication, as well as obligations of different members. Certain behaviors that are acceptable in one type of kinship may not be socially acceptable in other kin relationships. These close relationships help guide relationships and provide social feelings of safety and security. Kinship is often utilized to help in situations where someone may be displaced. Through social services, the elderly and children may find a home and support through kinship care as opposed to being placed too far from their normal environment. This lesson will discuss the types of kinship in detail.

Types of Kin

With my husband and I both having four siblings, my kids have plenty of aunts and uncles. Making it even harder for my younger children to keep things straight, most of our siblings are married, causing my younger ones to ask things like, 'Now, is Uncle John your brother or daddy's, or is he just married to Aunt Sarah?' In other words, they get a bit confused by the branches of their family tree. This is because our Western culture recognizes not just lineal and collateral kin as family, but also affinal kin as well. Guessing that these terms are rather foreign to most of us, today's lesson will seek to explain them.

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Types of Kinship

Kinship can be broken down into consanguineal, affinal, and social. Consanguineal includes direct blood relatives such as parents and children (lineal kinship), and siblings (collateral kinship). Marriages are considered affinal kinship. Another type of kinship can include social which is not through blood or marriage but instead through community or religious connection.

Family trees can track lineages and kinship. In the tree shown, the kinship can be tracked for the subject titled Ego, the dark triangle. In this diagram the men are represented by triangles and the females by circles. The subject, Ego, is male. His parents labeled Fa and Mo are shown to be married with an equal symbol. The parents also have a second child, a girl. Siblings in the chart are shown with a line down directly from a horizontal line under their parents. For example, the mother (Mo) is shown to have two siblings: a sister (MoSi) and a brother (MoBr). Both of these siblings are married and each have two children. This gives Ego four cousins on his mother's side. His father's side is mirrored by an uncle (FaBr) and aunt (FaSi). They are also married with two children each.


Kinship types

The image shows a pedigree with lineal, collateral, and affinal kinship.


Understanding how to read this diagram will be important while discussing the types of kinship below. In fact, the concept of kinship is what has defined the terms we are familiar with in our culture such as aunt, uncle, cousins, etc.

Lineal Kinship

Lineal kinship is an individual's direct ancestors or descendants. Lineal is defined as the direct parents and grandparents OR the children and grandchildren. An example of linear kin would be a grandparent. The individual labeled Ego in the image has a linear kinship to his father (Fa) and mother (Mo). Ancestry can be traced in a line (linearly) through the reproductive lineage from the great grandparents. Another example of lineal kinship could be seen by observing the father's sister (FaSi) through his children, labeled cross cousins, or through his parents (not shown on the table).

Collateral Kinship

Collateral relatives are an individual's siblings and their sibling's dependents. This is different from lineal kin because it is not a direct ancestor or descendant. Collateral kin includes sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews. In the same diagram shown, collateral kinship would include Ego's female sibling as well as any children she may have in the future. From the perspective of the father in the chart (Fa), the collateral kin would include his brother (FaBr) and sister (FaSi) as well as the cross cousins and parallel cousins on the father's side.

Lineal Kin

For our purposes, we'll start with lineal kinship. Lineal kin are defined as an individual's direct ancestors or descendants. Using the familiar idea of a family tree, your lineal kin are the people that are directly below you or above you. To make it easy, we can think of them as the main trunk of your family tree.

When speaking of your ancestors or those who have come before you, your lineal kin are your father and your mother, your grandparents, your great grandparents, and so on. However, they're not your aunts and uncles or your cousins. They're not even your siblings!

When speaking of your descendants, or those coming after you, your lineal kin are your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren, and so on. However, they're not your nieces, your nephews, or your cousins.

Collateral Kin

Next, there is collateral kinship. Collateral kin are an individual's siblings and their siblings' descendants. They are also the siblings of an individual's lineal, or direct kin. Putting it in simpler terms, these are sort of the side branches of your family tree. Unlike lineal kin, who you have descended directly from, or who have directly descended from you, your collateral kin are your sisters and your brothers, your aunts and your uncles, your nieces and your nephews, and even your cousins.

With this definition in mind, collateral kinship sounds a whole bunch like our Western idea of family. However, there is one group of people missing.

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Video Transcript

Types of Kin

With my husband and I both having four siblings, my kids have plenty of aunts and uncles. Making it even harder for my younger children to keep things straight, most of our siblings are married, causing my younger ones to ask things like, 'Now, is Uncle John your brother or daddy's, or is he just married to Aunt Sarah?' In other words, they get a bit confused by the branches of their family tree. This is because our Western culture recognizes not just lineal and collateral kin as family, but also affinal kin as well. Guessing that these terms are rather foreign to most of us, today's lesson will seek to explain them.

Lineal Kin

For our purposes, we'll start with lineal kinship. Lineal kin are defined as an individual's direct ancestors or descendants. Using the familiar idea of a family tree, your lineal kin are the people that are directly below you or above you. To make it easy, we can think of them as the main trunk of your family tree.

When speaking of your ancestors or those who have come before you, your lineal kin are your father and your mother, your grandparents, your great grandparents, and so on. However, they're not your aunts and uncles or your cousins. They're not even your siblings!

When speaking of your descendants, or those coming after you, your lineal kin are your children, your grandchildren, your great grandchildren, and so on. However, they're not your nieces, your nephews, or your cousins.

Collateral Kin

Next, there is collateral kinship. Collateral kin are an individual's siblings and their siblings' descendants. They are also the siblings of an individual's lineal, or direct kin. Putting it in simpler terms, these are sort of the side branches of your family tree. Unlike lineal kin, who you have descended directly from, or who have directly descended from you, your collateral kin are your sisters and your brothers, your aunts and your uncles, your nieces and your nephews, and even your cousins.

With this definition in mind, collateral kinship sounds a whole bunch like our Western idea of family. However, there is one group of people missing.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are collateral relatives?

Collateral relatives are blood-related. These include siblings as well as siblings' offspring. An individual's nieces and nephews are considered collateral relatives.

What is affinal kinship and what is an example of it?

Affinal kinship relates to family relationships that are linear. This lineage includes parents, grandparents, children, and grandchildren. Affinal kinship can be traced from great grandparents down to great grandchildren.

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