Human societies carry on patterned ways of organizing their members. Americans think of political structures, formal institutions, and job roles as means of organizing people. In addition we have the roles we think of as “nat ural,” particularly those anthropologists term kinship: family relations. Crosscultural comparisons reveal much variation in what societies believe to be natural relationships-in some, it seems natural to see a few children with women “fathers,” or all the boys and girls in a large extended family as broth ers and sisters. Analysis shows that kinship is a means of assigning roles to peo ple, a form of regulation especially important because it gives a role to
everyone, beginning at birth and continuing even after death. People may be given, or allowed to take, additional roles, and these may be what we conven tionally call occupations, political positions, or social statuses. Giving names to roles helps to regulate people in societies.