Difference Between Parallel and Cross Cousins

Parallel vs Cross Cousins
 

The difference between parallel cousins and cross cousins play a major role in some cultures as it has an implication on marriages. Before looking at it in the angle of marriage, let us first see who these parallel and cross cousins are. When it comes to relationships, we can identify two types of relationships. All of us have blood relatives as well as relatives who join families as a result of marriages. Blood relatives are called consanguine relations whereas others are called affinity relationships. In this article, we refer to cousins who are related to someone through blood connection. Parallel cousins are the siblings from mother’s sisters’ family or from father’s brothers’ family. Thus, parallel cousins come from parents’ same-sex siblings. On the other hand, cross cousins come from parents’ opposite sex siblings. That is from mother’s brothers’ family or father’s sisters’ family. However, these relationships play important roles in cultures, especially with regard to marriage customs. In this article, we are going to look at the two terms and the differences between parallel cousins and cross cousins in detail.

Who are Parallel Cousins?

Parallel cousins come from the same-sex siblings of one’s parents. Father’s brothers’  or, in other words, paternal uncle’s children become one’s parallel cousins. Also, mother’s sisters’ or, in other words, maternal aunt’s children are considered as parallel cousins. When it comes to kinship terminologies, almost all the societies call the male parallel cousin “brother” and female parallel cousin “sister”. It is apparent that parallel cousins are considered similar to one’s own brothers or sisters. Further, most societies consider the marriages between parallel cousins to be an incest taboo. Since parallel cousins are considered to be similar to one’s own siblings, it can be considered as a taboo. But, there are some pastoral people who allow marriages between parallel cousins. They think that those marriages will help to keep the family properties within a lineage.

Difference Between Parallel and Cross Cousins

Who are Cross Cousins?

Cross cousins are the children of one’s parents’ opposite sex siblings. That means father’s sisters’ or, in other words, paternal aunt’s children can be called as one’s cross cousins. Also, mother’s brothers’ or, in other words, maternal uncle’s children are considered as cross cousins. In kinship terminologies, male cross cousins are referred as “brother-in-law” and female cross cousins are called as “sister-in-law”. This is because they are considered to be different from one’s lineage system. Even though the marriages between parallel cousins are considered to be incest taboos, most cultures encourage cross-cousin marriages. Here also, people think of it as a way to keep the family properties within the unit of the family. However, nowadays the marriages between cross cousins are not encouraged because there is a possibility of spreading the genetic diseases to the offspring.

What is the difference between Parallel and Cross Cousins?

When we look at both the terms, we see some similarities as well as differences. Both parallel cousins and cross cousins are one’s relatives. They can be considered as consanguine relations. Also, we have parallel and cross cousins from our mother’s side as well as from father’s side.

• When we look at the differences, the main difference is that parallel cousins come from parents’ same-sex siblings (mother’s sister’s and father’s brother’s) whereas cross cousins come from parents’ opposite sex siblings (mother’s brother’s and father’s sister’s).

• In most cultures, parallel cousins are known as brothers and sisters while cross cousins are referred as brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

• Further, marriages between parallel cousins are mostly considered to be an incest taboo but cross-cousin marriages are accepted.

 

Images Courtesy: Cousin Kinship chart via Wikicommons (Public Domain)