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Kinship Usages

Kinship usages or the rules of kinship are significant in understanding kinship system. They serve two main purposes:

  • They create groups or special groupings or kin. For example- family extended family, clan etc.
  • Kinship rules govern the role of relationships among the kins.

Kinship usage provides guidelines for interaction among persons in these social groupings. It defines proper and acceptable role relationships. Thus it acts as a regulator of social life. Some of these relationships are: avoidance, teknonymy, avunculate, amitate, couvades and joking relationship.


It means that two kins normally of opposite sex should avoid each other. In almost all societies avoidance rules prescribe that men and women must maintain certain amount of modesty in speech, dress and gesture in a mixed company. Thus a father-in-law should avoid daughter-in-law. The purdah system in Hindu family in the north illustrates the usage of avoidance.


According to the usage of this usage a kin is not referred directly but is referred to through another kin. In a traditional Hindu family wife does not directly utter the name of her husband but refers to her husband as the father of so and so.


It refers to the special relationship that persists in some societies between a man and his mother's brother. This usage is found in a matriarchal system in which prominence is given to the maternal uncle in the life of his nephews and nieces.


The usage of amitate gives special role to the father's sister. Here father's sister is given more respect than the mother. Among Todas the child gets the name not through its parents but through the father's sister. Naming the child is her privilege.


The usage of couvades prevalent among the Khasi and the Todas tribes makes the husband to lead the life of an invalid along with his wife whenever she gives birth to a child. He refrains from the active work, takes diet and observes some taboos which are observed by his wife. According to Malinowski the usage of couvade contributes to a strong marital bond between the husband and wife.

Joking relationship:

A joking relationship involves a particular combination of friendliness and antagonism between individuals and groups in certain social situations. In these situations one individual or group is allowed to mock or ridicule the other without offence being taken. The usage of the joking relationship permits to tease and make fun of the other.

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