Yoruba - Kinship



Kin Groups and Descent. Descent groups are important in marking status, providing security, and regulating inheritance. There are strong bilateral tendencies, but agnatic ties are emphasized among northern Yoruba, among whom descent groups once were largely coterminus with residence, but not among southern Yoruba, who tend to have more dispersed residences and stress cognatic ties. Descent groups have names and founding ancestors, and in some cases they own chieftaincy titles. Women rarely succeed to the titles, although their sons can. Descent groups formerly regulated marriage, agriculture, and family ceremonies and maintained internal discipline. Elder male members still act as decision makers, adjudicators, and administrators; formerly, they served as representatives in civic affairs. Extended-family relationships are individually cultivated and are important for mobilizing various types of support.

Kinship Terminology. The few basic kinship terms are applied in a classificatory manner. Except for mother/father, grandmother/grandfather, and wife/husband, there are no gender-specific terms; senior siblings are distinguished from junior siblings; no cousin distinctions are made; and all children are addressed by the same term regardless of sex or age. To indicate more precise relationships, descriptive phrases must be used.


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