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Family:  Basic Concepts

Family: Basic Concepts

Author: Paul Hannan

Differentiate between the relationships inherent in family, kinship, marriage, extended family, and nuclear family.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Family Icons Public Domain Family Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on family, the basic concepts. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

Today, we're looking at some basic terms that help define what the family is. We're not going to spend too much time really analyzing these terms. But it's just important that you know what these terms are as you learn sociology.

So the first one to look at is kinship. Now kinship is simply you have a relationship with someone else. And it's a relationship based on one of these three different subsets, common ancestry, marriage, or adoption. Now, if you don't quite know what those three things are, I'm going to go through them right now.

Common ancestry, that is just having an ancestor in common. So you and your siblings have an ancestor in common. Obviously, you have your parents in common.

But generally, we're thinking of common ancestry as going further back. It could be a grandparent, a great-grandparent. It's just tracing your descendants back throughout. And then finding someone that you have a similar grandparent with.

Now, another way you have kinship is through marriage. Marriage is just a social contract that binds people together. And unlike common ancestry, there is some control over who you choose to enter this contract with.

Now, in some cultures there's arranged marriages, where people have no real input on it. But still there is more control over kinship through marriage.

Now, the last way that you could have kinship is through adoption. And that's when you take someone else and you adopt them into your own family. You treat them as your own and you raise them as your own. So those are the three different ways you have kinship.

Now, when I think of kinship, it's very important to keep kinship away from the next concept we're going to learn. And that concept is when you have kinship plus something else. Sometimes in society we will use kinship, and actually be talking in sociological terms about this other thing, which is family. So it's really important that you think of kinship as being the relationship. And then family being that relationship plus care, that relationship and something more.

So a family is a group people with that relationship. So they have that common ancestry. There is an adoption there. There's marriage there. And on top of that, they also work together. They also care about each other.

Now, right away, when you think of family, you're going to think of some different family from I. And sociology tries to differentiate a couple different ways of looking at family. Two of those you're going to learn about right now.

So when you think of just your close, close-knit family, in fact limiting it just to the two adults in the family and their children, that's it, that is the nuclear family. So it doesn't consider aunts and uncles. It doesn't consider stepfathers. It's just those two parents and their children.

On the other hand, when you broaden that scope, and you look at the rest of the way families work, well, that's the extended family. That's the family beyond the nuclear family.

So today's take-away message. Family is a group of people with some relation, that work together. And that relation is kinship. And kinship is a relationship based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption.

Now, marriage is a social contract binding people together. And we also learned about the nuclear family, which is looking at just the two adults and their children in the family. And the extended family, which is looking at the rest of the family, beyond just the nuclear family

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Extended Family

A family composed of your nuclear family plus extended relatives such as grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.


A group of two or more people who cooperate economically and are related by blood, marriage, or affiliation.


A culturally patterned social relationship based on common ancestry, marriage, or adoption.


A legal union usually involving economic cooperation, sexual activity, and (sometimes) childbearing.

Nuclear Family

Limiting the scope of family to two adults and their children.