Difference Between Family and Kinship

Key Difference – Family vs Kinship

Family and kinship are two concepts between which a clear difference can be viewed although one can claim that these two are very much intertwined. When paying attention to our lives, it is conspicuous that family and kin have a huge role to play in our lives from our very birth onwards. These relationships that we develop with family and kin can create a huge impact on our lives and also change our points of view of the world. The key difference between family and kinship can be identified from the definition of the two words. A family refers to a group including parents and children. On the other hand, kinship can be understood as blood relationship. Through this article let us comprehend the differences between the two words.

What is Family?

A family refers to a group including parents and children. Family is often viewed as the smallest unit of the society although one has to admit that it is the cornerstone of the society as well. In sociology, the family is considered as one of the most important social institutions that has unique functions in the society. The concept of family is not only apparent in the modern setting but also existed within the pre-modern setting. However, some differences can be observed when it comes to the functions of the family now and then.

According to George Peter Murdock, the concept of family was visible even in the hunting and gathering societies. He took a sample of 250 societies ranging from hunting and gathering societies to modern societies and attempted to comprehend the nature of family and its functions. He defined the family as a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. He further explained that the family includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted of the sexually cohabiting adults. Also, it is important to highlight that the family in any society is mainly responsible for the primary socialization of the younger generation.

When looking at the modern society one notices that the nuclear family is the modern trend. This includes individuals belonging to two generations (parents and children). In the past, what was more apparent was the extended family. In this case, other than the parents and children, the grandparents, uncles and aunts also resided in the same household.

Difference Between Family and Kinship

What is Kinship?

Kinship can be loosely defined as blood relationship. Similar to family, kinship is also an important part of all our lives. This can take place through practices such as marriage, genetic relations, and even adoption. Kinship begins with family and can extend to include the entire clan. In this sense, one can clearly identify a difference between family and kinship as the family is more restrictive in comparison to kinship that captures a large number.

Kinship can differ based on the cultural context, unlike in the case of the family. In various tribes, there are different rituals that lay a clear impact on kinship. However, it is important to highlight that kinship encompasses various duties, responsibilities, roles and privileges for the people. Although in the modern society the emphasis is mostly on family rather than on kinship, in some Asian cultures, the importance and involvement of kin in daily life can be visible. This highlights that a clear difference can be identified between family and kinship. Now let us attempt to summarize the difference as follows.

Family vs Kinship Key Difference

What is the Difference Between Family and Kinship?

Definitions of Family and Kinship

Family: A family refers to a group including parents and children.

Kinship: Kinship can be understood as blood relationship.

Characteristics of Family and Kinship


Family: The scope of the family is much restrictive.

Kinship: The scope of kinship is not. This can have a very large scope even capturing one’s clan.


Family: Family shares a common residence.

Kinship: Kinship may not always share a common residence.

Genetic Origins:

Family: Family has definite genetic origins.

Kinship: Kinship sometimes may not. In such an instance, the role played by culture is very significant. (For example marriage and rituals)


Image Courtesy:

1. Family playing a board game By Bill Branson (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2. “FamiliaOjeda” by Ojedamd – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons