Social Institution

Subject: Sociology

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Social institutions are established in order to fulfill the need of the society, individual as well as regulate the social system and control the society. Among different social institutions, a family is one of the oldest social institutions where a group of members is tied by blood, marriage, adaptation relations. Similarly, another important institution is marriage through which continuation to the generation is done through the mode of child production. Likewise, kinship is another significant institution which is established through the biological and marital relationship.
Social Institution

A social institution is a network of procedures centered upon certain focal interests. All the social institution's objectives are influencing to each other and inter-related. It means society is made of a different social institution such as religious institution, cultural institutions, educational instructions etc. In the same way, all the institutions fulfill the need of society as well as individuals, regulate the social system and control the society. Social institutions, in general, helps to maintain the total structure and function of the society.


Family is the oldest social institutions where a group of member live together having a common culture and relationship as blood, marriage, and adaptation. A family has rights of child production to continue the family generation. The members of the family have defined status and role. It is the oldest and universal social institution and more stable than other social institution. Families are organized in socially patterned ways and are also shaped by their relationship to a system of inequality in the society.

Types of Family

On the basis of structure of generation

  • The nuclear family, one or two generation living together.
  • Joint family, three or more generation living together.
  • Extended family, three or more generation and adopted members living together.

On the basis of marriage

  • Monogamous, single marriage.
  • Polygamous, multiple marriages.

On the basis of ancestry or descent

  • Patrilineal, the descent is traced from father’s line.
  • Matrilineal, the descent is traced from other’s line.

On the basis of nature of residency

  • Patrilocal, after marriage the wife starts to stay in her husband’s house.
  • Matrilocal, after marriage the husband stays with his wife in her parental house.
  • Neolocal, after marriage both husband and wife start to stay in new place.

On the basis nature of authority

  • Patriarchal, male is the head of the family.
  • Matriarchal, female is the head of the family.

Functions of family

  • Biological functions: Husband and wife in the family get legal as well as social consent for a relationship, by which the sexual need of the partners are fulfilled in the family. They also procreate their children to continue their generation.

  • Physical functions: A physical function includes nurturing the children, provision of food, shelter, cloths and security which are easily maintained in the family. The family members also have mutual cooperation to each other and supporting one another in all aspects of physical existence.

  • Economic functions: Economic activity is also another important function of a family. Their inheritance determination of parental property which goes to the line age. It also functions as production and consumption unitof society. There is a strong division of labor in the family where the father, mother, and children are assigned to different activities .

  • Social functions: A social function refers to the establishment of the family member in the society. It also includes their role and status in the society and participating in different social activities. Similarly, after the birth of the children socialization of them is very important. Socialization process is imparting knowledge to the family members to adopt family and societal, cultural norms and values, ethic and morals, recreation, education etc.

  • Religious and cultural functions: To carry up the religious and cultural activities like worshipping, celebrating feasts and festivals, ritual performance, full of the religious ethics etc fall under the religious and cultural functions of the family. It is also an important institution for the transmission of culture from generation to generation.


Marriage is the universal social institution. It helps to establish a family to give continuation to the generation through the mode of child production. The procreated children gets legal rights thereafter. So, marriage is practice in the human society and it regulates the sexual relationship between husband and wife. In marriage, the couple socializes one another into a shared way of seeing the world. Through the marriage, the matured two people of opposite sex maintain a socio-cultural, biological, psychological, physical and emotional relationship throughout their life span.

Types of marriage
  • Monogamy: one husband and one wife-single marriage.
  • Polygamy: multiple marriages.
  • Polygyny: one husband and more than one wife.
  • Polyandry: a female is married to more than one husband.
  • Group marriage: the marriage of two or more than two male with two or more than two women correspondingly where the husbands and wives are common to one another.

Functions of marriages

  • Regulation of sex life:
    Marriage is a powerful instrument of regulating the sex life.Sexual impulse is powerful in man. He is exposed to its influence throughout his life. It is an urgent and irresistible need of man. It has to be controlled and regulated in a proper manner to avoid chaos and confusion in society. Marriage has come to be such a regulative means. Hence, marriage is often called the license for sex life.

  • Marriage leads to the establishment of the family:
    Sexual satisfaction offered by marriage result in self-perpetuation. It means marriage insists on couple to establish a family of procreation. It is here the children are born and brought up. It is the marriage which determines the descent of the newborn individual. Inheritance and succession follow the rule of descent.

  • Provide economic cooperation:
    Marriage makes the division of the labor possible on the basis of sex. Partners of the marriage distribute and divide work among them and perform them. In some of the primitive’ type, we find a clear cut division of work between the husband and wife. Even in the modern industrial societies, we find husband and wife working outside the family to get more income to elevate their economic status.

  • Marriage contributes to emotional and intellectual inter-stimulation of the partners:
    Marriage brings life partners together and helps them to develop intense love and affection towards each other. It deepens the emotions and strengthens, the companionship between them. It also helps them to develop intellectual cooperation between them.


Kinship is a universal social institution. In most societies, it plays a significant role in the socialization of individuals. It also helps to maintain social cohesion and interrelationship among the kin groups. It was found that clan-based primitive societies gradually developed on kinship based tribes and families. In simple societies, the kinship relations are so extensive, fundamental and influential that in effect they themselves constitute the social system. Kinship basically refers to the relationship between individuals and groups on the model of biological relationship and marital relationship.

Types of Kinship

  • Consanguineous Kinship:
    Consanguineous kinship system refers to the kinship bond between the individuals who are recognized by blood and descent relation. Here, man and woman indulge in sexual relation and as a result, the woman bears children. This leads to blood ties between the parents and siblings of the mother, father, and children. The relatives of these types are known as consanguineous kin.

  • Affinal Kinship:
    Affinal kinship system refers to the kinship bond between the individual who are recognized by marriage relations. Here, male and female involves socially and legally approved marriage ties and establishes a kind of relation between the boy’s and girl’s family not only with the boy and the girl alone. The relatives so related are called Affinal kin. This type of relation is maintained to the next families which are not related by blood.

Functions of Kinship

  • Kinship system shows the social relationship among the individuals.
  • Kinship system identifies the individuals in their family and society.
  • Kinship system helps to develop the concept of feeling among the kin groups.
  • Kinship system helps to maintain peace and harmony in society.
  • Kinship is strictly applied in maintaining an Affinal relationship.
  • Kinship system determines the status and role of individual in their family and society.


Khatri, Prem Kumar, Elementary Sociology and Anthropology XI, Bhundipuran Prakashan, Kathmandu

Sharma, Kamal Raj, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology inNepal-XI, Sunrise Prakashan Pvt. Ltd., Kathmandu

Sitaula, Mohan Kumar, Introduction to Sociology and Anthropology-XI, Ekta Books and Distributors, Kathmandu

Things to remember
  1.  A social institution is a network of procedures that is focused on some focal interest.
  2.   A group of two people or more related by blood, marriage, and adaptation and residing together are families.
  3.  Marriage is a union between a man and woman such that the children born to the woman are recognized as legitimate offspring of  both partners.
  4.  Kinship is simply a relation between kin that is a person related by biological and marital relation.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.

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