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Fictive Kin

Denae Johnson

Subject Race and Ethnicity Studies
Sociology » Sociology of Family and Friendships

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Fictive kin, also referred to as voluntary or honorary kin, is the informal adoption of close friends into one's family. It has been highlighted as a significant component of black American family life that arose as a result of the historical, cultural, and economic domination of black Americans. Today it persists as a form of extended kin, as a means of pooling resources, extending familial networks and extending social support. There are two types of fictive kin: one of self-selected family, which is composed of unrelated individuals, and another that involves the incorporation of selected individuals into a biological or legal family. Nelson (2006) observed family as something people “do.” “Doing family” employs the assignment of privileges and roles with accompanying responsibilities. The family is structured by other institutions including the economy and market-based institutions as well as government, education, and religious and ideological institutions. For black persons, external racialized aggression from mainstream white society has enforced and contributed to internal solidarity within black families and communities. The family is a locale of community formation and fictive kinship serves as a haven from isolation and discrimination for marginalized peoples. Some scholars have long realized that black families have the tendency to be more fluid than white families ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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