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Kin Relations Differ And Change With Socio Economic

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Changes over the last 30 years in patterns of family formation and dissolution have given rise to questions about the definition of kin relations (Schneider, D. 1980). They are traditionally defined s ties based on blood and marriage. They include lineal generational bonds (children, parents, grandparents and great grandparents), collateral bonds (siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles) and ties with the in-laws. In most society’s kin relations is a system of interdependent relations, where family integrity requires cooperative interconnectedness. However it is commonly assumed, for example, that the interconnected interdependent family/human orientations are not compatible with socio-economic development. Kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies. In some cultures, kinship relationships may be considered to extend out to people an individual has economic or political relationships with, or other forms of social connections.

Within a culture, some descent groups may be considered to lead back to gods or animal ancestors’ totems.It’s no longer about blood and marriage when looking at the cases of adoption, births resulting from infertility treatments, broken and reconstituted families. This gives a clear picture that kin relations are always changing and differ with socio-economic -and cultural context. Different societies classify kin relations differently and therefore use different systems of kinship. In the eastern parts of Zimbabwe especially in Manicaland people can be related simply because they share the same totem

. Contrary to the southern part in Matebeleland where totems were inherited to escape racial discrimination, totems are not considered. The Shona people who moved to Matebeleland had to change their totems to become their surnames. For instance one with a lion origin (shumba) will automatically become a (masibanda) and the surname will be Sibanda so that they won’t be discriminated by the original Ndebele people. One can then marry a person with the same totem because its not that important to hem whilst in the eastern part it will be a taboo because it’s a sibling. Thus kin relations differ with cultural context.

In most societies in the Majority World the family is a system of interdependent relations, where family integrity requires cooperative interconnectedness. The strongest kinship norm in a socio-economic context is the obligation towards children followed by that towards parents then of the extended families. It is highly a fact that altruistic exist largely to lineal bonds. For example parents firsts consider the well being of their children first (the immediate family), when finances are available they will then consider the extended families. That is in the context of collectivistic cultures like Islam where you cannot leave a brother or sister without helping. In collective cultures one is willing to die for his or her family ( ). This is different in individualistic culture for example Europe or America, They stress on independence, self sufficient and pursuit of personal goes.

For many Westernized societies kin have traditionally been of a blood tie nature, making up the nuclear family (parents and children). However this is breaking down due to industrialization and modernization. With individuals moving from home, sometimes even to other countries, in search of jobs ,the family of orientation(that of one’s birth) is quickly broken up while the formation of the family of procreation is being delayed as people are marrying much later. More so the world is becoming one due to technology that is ever changing every day. Long back children used to sit down with elders and knowledge used to be passed down through folktales. They would learn about their origins and how important to keep their cultures. This has since changed given the fact that children now most of their early ages at school where they will be in the hands of complete strangers with different beliefs. The relations with the people of their own blood are no longer that important than they were before.

Also long back relatives would build their homes clustered at the same place because they believed that they belonged as one and needed each other. This has since changed now one can live alone in a place where there is no a single relative. People of the same origin are now spread all over fragmented they are no longer found on a specific area. This still exists in some areas especially in rural areas but not very much. In some cases when they move they would change their name so that they are not associated with their origins. This will then distort the family tree starting a new one. This proves that kin relations are changing people are now moving to individualistic approach. In addition increasing rates of divorce means that individuals may have more than one set of affine relations (those from marriage). With remarriage, no one is related except for the adult couple, as there are no legal or biological ties between either party’s children or the step kin. Even the partners feel distanced from the children referring to them as “my partner’s children” or stepchildren.

Resultantly kin relations are no longer as simple as they used to be. In Zimbabwe many marriages are succumbing to divorce as a result of separate living arrangements, where one spouse is working overseas. Kin relations are broken and sometimes new ones are made through marriages of convenience. This is where foreigners will marry citizens within a particular country to legalise their stay. Various societies practice different marriage rituals. In Zimbabwe man pay lobola (bridal price) for the lady, in India the lady is the one who pays. The bridal prices differ from one culture to another. In western countries man simply by a ring for the lady proposing or marriage and they will contribute for the wedding together. However in most countries in Africa the groom have to pay cattle, money and also have be responsible for the wedding.

For the Zapotec, having children means sharing children, as for they believe parenthood consists of various roles performed by different people dependent on their individual gifts and abilities. Nicole Sault, (1985). In Zimbabwe children belongs to the father whilst in Malawi they belong to the Woman. More over people used to marry those they share the same cultural traits with because they would share the same views about life. In Zimbabwe where there are different tribes culturally one would want to marry from the same tribe. Economically those who are rich would consider each other so that the status would be maintained.

This has since changed with the introduction of internet dating and other factors. People now have the freedom of marrying whoever they like with the help of laws. In some countries they have allowed gay marriages. In conclusion kin relations provide insight into processes of modernity. A general assumption regarding kin relations in the world is that the diverse human/family patterns are bound to change with urbanization and industrialization to eventually converge on the Western pattern. Thus kin relations differ and change with socio-economic and cultural contexts.


Nanda S. (1999) Neither Man nor Woman: The Hijras of India. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 186 pp

Bond, M. (1986) The psychology of the Chinese people. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

Schneider. D. M. (1980). American Kinship: A Cultural Account. Chicago, IL: Univ. Chicago Press. 137 pp. 2nd edition

Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press.

Meekers, D. “The Noble Custom of Roora: The Marriage Practices of the Shona of Zimbabwe.” Ethnology 32. 35–54, 1993.

Chigwedere, A., From Mutapa to Rhodes, 1000 – 1980 A.D., London: Macmillan, 1980.

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