Cognatic kinship system is? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

Cognatic kinship system

Question: Cognatic kinship system is?

  1. Unilineal 
  2. Bilateral
  3. Multilateral
  4. Ambilateral

Answer: (2)

The MA CUET exam question delves into the concept of a cognatic kinship system and presents it as a multiple-choice question with the correct answer being (b) Bilateral. This response aims to provide a comprehensive exploration of the cognatic kinship system, elucidating its characteristics, variations (such as ambilineal descent), and the significance of understanding such kinship structures in anthropological studies.

Cognatic Kinship System:

A cognatic kinship system, also known as bilateral descent, is a form of family relationship that considers both the maternal and paternal sides of an individual’s family equally. Unlike unilineal descent systems, which trace lineage exclusively through either the father’s (patrilineal) or mother’s (matrilineal) side, the cognatic kinship system acknowledges and incorporates both lines in determining familial ties, identity, and inheritance rights.

Bilateral Descent:

The term “bilateral” emphasizes that descent is traced through both the father and mother. In a bilateral descent system, individuals recognize and maintain connections with relatives on both sides of their family. This approach contrasts with unilineal descent systems, where lineage is exclusively traced through either the male or female line.

Ambilineal Descent:

While the question specifically mentions cognatic kinship, it’s important to note the related concept of ambilineal descent. Ambilineal descent allows individuals to choose the lineage through which they want to trace their descent. This flexibility in choosing either the paternal or maternal line distinguishes ambilineal descent from strict patrilineal or matrilineal systems.

Characteristics of Cognatic Kinship:

Equal Recognition: One of the key characteristics of the cognatic kinship system is the equal recognition of both sides of the family. Individuals in cognatic systems acknowledge and maintain relationships with relatives from both their father’s and mother’s families.

Inheritance Rights: Inheritance rights are not limited to one specific side of the family. Instead, individuals may inherit property, titles, or other assets from either their paternal or maternal lineage.

Flexibility: Cognatic kinship systems offer flexibility in determining social relationships. Individuals can establish connections with relatives based on personal preferences or circumstances, rather than adhering to rigid rules of descent.

Diversity of Ties: The cognatic kinship system contributes to the diversity of social ties within a community. It fosters a network of relationships that extends across both sides of the family, creating a more interconnected social structure.

Significance of Understanding Cognatic Kinship:

Cultural Variability: Understanding cognatic kinship is crucial for comprehending the diversity of kinship systems across cultures. Different societies adopt various approaches to organizing family relationships, and cognatic kinship represents one such variation.

Social Structure: The kinship system plays a fundamental role in shaping the social structure of a community. Cognatic kinship, with its emphasis on bilateral descent, contributes to a more interconnected web of relationships that goes beyond the constraints of patrilineal or matrilineal structures.

Identity and Inheritance: In cognatic systems, an individual’s identity is not solely tied to one side of the family. This can impact inheritance practices, as individuals may inherit from both their father’s and mother’s families, leading to a more equitable distribution of resources.

Family Dynamics: Cognatic kinship influences family dynamics by promoting a balanced consideration of both parental lineages. It encourages individuals to maintain relationships with relatives from both sides, fostering a sense of belonging to a broader familial network.

Examples of Cognatic Kinship Practices:

Iroquois Kinship System: The Iroquois, a Native American confederation, is often cited as an example of a cognatic kinship system. In their kinship structure, individuals have strong ties to both their father’s and mother’s families, with inheritance and lineage not restricted to one side.

Western Societies: Many contemporary Western societies exhibit characteristics of cognatic kinship. In these societies, individuals commonly maintain connections with relatives on both sides of the family and may inherit from either parent.

Critiques and Challenges:

While cognatic kinship offers flexibility and inclusivity, it is not without critiques. Some argue that the flexibility of choosing descent lines may lead to ambiguity in familial relationships. Additionally, the recognition of both sides equally can be challenging in terms of maintaining a cohesive social structure.

Critics also point out that the emphasis on individual choice may not align with the social norms and expectations prevalent in certain cultures. The balance between individual agency and adherence to cultural norms remains a topic of discussion within anthropological studies.


In conclusion, the response provides a thorough exploration of the cognatic kinship system, shedding light on its characteristics, variations, and significance in anthropological studies. The discussion encompasses the concept of bilateral descent, acknowledging both the paternal and maternal sides of an individual’s family.

Understanding cognatic kinship is essential for appreciating the diversity of kinship systems across cultures and their impact on social structures. The flexibility, equality, and interconnectedness inherent in cognatic kinship contribute to the richness of familial relationships within a community.

The examples provided, such as the Iroquois kinship system and practices in contemporary Western societies, offer concrete illustrations of cognatic kinship in action. The discussion also acknowledges critiques and challenges associated with cognatic kinship, emphasizing the need for a nuanced understanding of its dynamics.

Overall, the response engages with the question by providing a comprehensive examination of the cognatic kinship system, contributing to a broader understanding of kinship diversity in anthropological discourse.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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