Definition of Fictive Kin
(noun) A kinship based on social agreements such as friendship instead of adoption, blood (consanguinity), or marriage (affinity) that creates a relationship “like family.”
Example of Fictive Kin
- Quinn and Harley met in Spain while attending a university and got married. Quinn is from the United States, and Harley is from Australia. Quinn and Harley made new friends with Elliot and Kelley in their adopted country. Elliot and Kelley became their fictive kin and godparents to Quinn and Harley’s child.
Fictive Kin Pronunciation
Syllabification: fic·tive kin
- American English – /fIk-tiv kIn/
- British English – /fIk-tiv kIn/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English: /ˈfɪktɪv ˈkɪn/
- British English: /ˈfɪktɪv ˈkɪn/
- Fictive kin are people who are treated “like family.”
- Fictive kin are often described as the “family of choice” or the “family you choose.”
- Ritual kinship is a type of fictive kinship established through a ritual such as “blood brothers” or choosing godparents for a child.
- “Although the category ‘fictive kin’ has fallen from grace in the social sciences, it retains validity for many people in the United States when applied to chosen families. From coverage in the popular press to child custody suits and legislative initiatives, phrases such as ‘pretended family relations’ and ‘so-called family’ are recurrently applied to lesbian or gay couples, parents, and families of friends. The very concept of a substitute or surrogate family suffers from a functionalism that assumes people intrinsically need families (whether for psychological support or material assistance). Commentators who dispute the legitimacy of gay families typically set up a hierarchical relationship in which biogenetic ties constitute a primary domain upon which ‘fictive kin’ relations are metaphorically predicated. With this secondary domain, relationships are said to be ‘like’ family, that is, similar to and probably imitative of the relations presumed to actually compromise kinship” (Weston 1997:106).
- “When male-headed nuclear families are uncritically accepted as normative (by native informants as well as anthropologists, who are usually also native informants), all other kinship patterns are relegated to a lower status as extensions of or exceptions to the rule. Yet, we know that ‘fictive kinship’ and extended matrifocality are crucial to the survival and reproduction of some kinship systems. Among Afro-Americans, for example, friends are often turned into brothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins, a tactic that increases social solidarity under conditions of economic and social fragmentation. And a pattern of ‘informal matrifocality’ is now emerging throughout the American class structure among the rapidly increasing population of women and children living without males in their households” (Rapp 2004:124).
- Family and Kinship Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “fictive” and “kin” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Stack, Carol B. 1974. All Our Kin: Strategies for Survival in a Black Community. New York: Harper & Row.
- blended family
- conjugal family
- extended family
- family life cycle
- family of orientation
- family of procreation
- family planning
- nuclear family
Rapp, Rayna. 1987. “Toward a Nuclear Freeze?: The Gender Politics of Euro-American Kinship Analysis,” Pp. 119–31 in Gender and Kinship: Essays Toward a Unified Analysis, edited by J. F. Collier and S. J. Yanagisako. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
Weston, Kath. 1997. Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship. Rev. ed. New York: Columbia University Press.
Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.
Barnard, Alan, and Jonathan Spencer, eds. 2010. Routledge Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology. 2nd ed. London, England: Routledge.
Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Darity, William A. 2008. International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Vol. 2. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA.
Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Ritzer, George, ed. 2007. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Scott, Jacquelyn Thayer, Judith Treas, and Martin Richards, eds. 2007. The Blackwell Companion to the Sociology of Families. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cite the Definition of Fictive Kin
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “fictive kin.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved March 28, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/fictive-kin/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
fictive kin. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/fictive-kin/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “fictive kin.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/fictive-kin/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“fictive kin.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/fictive-kin/>.