In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the bilateral kindred was the basic Russian social unit among both peasants and aristocrats (such as the Aksakov family on the Ural frontier). This kindred was delimited in Russian kinship terminology by the exogamic units set by churchly canon: four "links" for consanguinai kin, two for affinal; only the archaic term dyadina (father's brother's wife, mother's brother's wife) extended further. The terminology is isolating, except that no distinction is made among consanguinal kin between male and female lines of descent; cousin terms derive from sibling terms; gender suffixes distinguish the sexes among the consanguinai kin of ascending generations and among affinal kin (except daughter's husband and son's wife); and the terms for daughter's husband and sister's husband are merged. Within the kindred, patterns of behavior other than exogamy were largely determined by the specific coresidence patterns of each household. The nuclear family, often supplemented by a grandmother or aunt, was particularly important in the south, but in the central regions patrilocally or fraternally extended families were common, and in the north the large extended family, often numbering more than twenty persons in the household, was typical. Within these households, whatever their size, parental, especially paternal, authority prevailed. To this day on the collective farms, and to a lesser extent in the cities, various joint household budgets persist. Christenings, reverence of icons, and parental blessings of various kinds strengthen human relations. A basic, endearing term for all types of kin is rodnoy or rodnaya (kinsman, kinswoman), from rod (clan). Until recently, at least, godparenthood ( kum, kuma ), often by a relative, constituted a lifelong tie of central importance.
Although premarital sex and single parenthood were always common among Russian peasants and workers, marriage continues to be a major socioreligious act. Traditionally it was mainly an economic contract between the heads of two households, reinforced by the payment of the wedding costs by the groom's household and the provision of a substantial dowry by the mother of the bride. Both patrilocal and matrilocal marriage were practiced, although the former was preferred and more frequent. In matrilocal marriages, parents without sons adopted a son-in-law under a contract that stipulated that he support them for the remainder of their lives and give them a decent burial. Although marriages today are individual commitments, they are often associated with obligations to older female relatives. In Kemerovo, for example, families can gain prized housing rights by means of a coresident grandmother, real or adopted, who is thus protected and in turn helps with child care and household tasks. (This "structural babushka" may be a grandparent's sister or other older female relative.)