Constructing family: A typology of voluntary kin

Dawn O. Braithwaite, Betsy Wackernagel Bach, Leslie A. Baxter, Rebecca DiVerniero, Joshua R. Hammonds, Angela M. Hosek, Erin K. Willer, Bianca M. Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


This study explored how participants discursively rendered voluntary kin relationships sensical and legitimate. Interpretive analyses of 110 interviews revealed four main types of voluntary kin: (i) substitute family, (ii) supplemental family, (iii) convenience family, and (iv) extended family. These types were rendered sensical and legitimated by drawing on the discourse of the traditional family. Except for the extended family, three of four voluntary kin family types were justified by an attributed deficit in the blood and legal family. Because voluntary kin relationships are not based on the traditional criteria of association by blood or law, members experience them as potentially challenging, requiring discursive work to render them sensical and legitimate to others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-407
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social and Personal Relationships
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication and social construction
  • Fictive kin
  • Voluntary kin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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