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Amanda Wittke

FALL 2017

What are the different kinship roles - such as nephew, aunt or uncle, in-law, grandson or
granddaughter - that you play as a result of being a member of your extended family? What
rights and obligations does each of these roles entail in your family? Do you have any fictive
kin? How did they become "like family"?

I have many kinship roles. I am a niece to two aunts whom are close and others on my
dad's side that live in different states. I am a granddaughter though I have no living
grandparents. I am a daughter in-law to my husband's mom, dad and step-mom. I am a sister
in-law to his one half-sister and three step-siblings. I am an aunt to my husband's nieces and
nephews though I don't have any biological nieces or nephews yet. I have even recently
connected with a half-brother whom was the product of my biological father. I suppose that
also makes me an adopted daughter to my dad though we've never recognized any
Of my extended kinship roles, I think the most interesting is that of cousin. My
Grandparents have all passed and while I remain close to my aunts and uncles, there is no
comparison to the relationships I have with my cousins. They were a huge part of my family and
of my own personal development. It was with them that I formed my first strong bonds outside
my own nuclear family (Strong & Cohen p. 12, 15).
Growing up, there was a 10-year age gap between myself and my younger brother. 11
years between myself and my youngest brother. I had a sister whom passed away at a young
age and though we were closer in age, there were still about 6 years between us. However, I
had cousins who were much closer in age. One of which was even in the same grade level.
Our moms all lived on the same street growing up as well so we grew up very close. We spent
every summer together and school years before and after school every day. We would work
together on homework and were sometimes in the same classes.
While this often led to disputes and a bit of drama here and there, I'd imagine it similar
to having siblings who were closer to my own age. I am certainly closer to my brothers now in
adulthood than we were as children but having so many cousins definitely filled in for anything I
may have missed from having a closer sibling. As adults, we all remain relatively close and see
each other on birthday parties, holidays, and family gatherings. We've lost one cousin to suicide
and I think since then, we've all been a little more diligent in not missing opportunities to
connect. As far as responsibilities of the role, I know I find myself in a way, responsible for their
children... not so much financially but just responsible to be there for them. I take every
opportunity to support their fundraisers and I try not to miss any birthday parties.

In addition to my cousins, I have also formed lasting bonds with some fictive kin. The
first to come to mind would be my best friend. We have been best friends since third grade and
grew up in the same neighborhood for the majority of our young lives. For a year or so, she
even moved in with my family while her parents lived in Arizona. I think the proximity during
childhood was the biggest factor in her becoming a part of the family. We were always together
and had sleep overs at each other's houses often. When she came back to live with my family,
nothing felt forced. It just fell into place and felt as though she belonged. Since then, she has
always been invited to family functions and birthday parties and we are always invited in
return. She has become more family than friend. My husband also has a friend whom we've
always considered family. He lived with us for a while when we were first on our own and
helped us financially while we helped him separate himself from some bad situations. He is
always treated like family as well.


Strong, B, & Cohen, T. F. (2014). The marriage and family experience: Intimate relationships in a
changing society (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Reflective writing (kinship):

This essay really broadened the views I had of my own kinship roles and those around me. It
challenged me to think deeper about my duties within my own roles and how the roles of
others may affect me. Within my family, I have many different kinship roles but I had rarely
thought of the roles of those that I have no relationship to but I consider family. As it turns out,
I have more fictive kin than I originally thought upon first learning the term from the text. It is
interesting to learn the different roles each kinship relationship has and how they often differ
from culture to culture. For example, the fact that in some cultures, there is more responsibility
put on the brother than the husband to care for a woman's children.
My process throughout this essay was relatively easy. It involved a lot of reading from the
text but also, some self-exploration. I had never really considered the impact that my
relationships with some members of my family have had on my development. All of these
relationships, no matter how brief have played a huge part in my growth and in becoming the
adult that I am. I think it was a good exercise in self-discovery and helped shed some light on a
lot of my characteristics.
I think this assignment illustrates the complexities of family relationships. It may seem like
every family has more similarities than meets the eye, but each family is so very unique. While
I'm sure there are many things that most families have in common, there are no two that are
exactly alike. As they grow and expand, the uniqueness is never lost and is usually only
enhanced. I think many kinship roles have changed over the decades and will likely keep
changing as priorities shift and the economy cycles.
Amanda Wittke
FALL 2017


Interview two or three couples who are in their 20s or early 30s and who have been
married for more than a year and less than five years. Record their responses to the following
questions: What are the important tasks that young couples need to undertake in order to
have a long-term successful marriage? Is it okay for a woman to be more successful than her
husband? What impact could her success have on their marriage? What should be the
marriage partners relationship with his or her own parents? What should be the persons
relationship with his or her in-laws? What were their hardest adjustments to marriage?


The first couple I interviewed was that of my best friend. She and her husband have
been together for quite some time but married for just less than 5 years. The important tasks to
them for a young couple to undertake in order for a successful marriage was mainly just to
understand that they would need to grow up together in some situations. They emphasized this
as an alternative to giving up on each other. They agreed that while it is definitely "okay" for a
woman to be more successful than her husband, it could lead to feelings of insecurities for the
husband due to stereotypes that the man is typically the breadwinner. This idea is also echoed
in our textbook. It states that only in regard to the husband does money = power (Strong and
Cohen 2014, page 257). In regard to relationships with his or her own parents, they both
emphasized an importance of love and respect. Their answer was the same concerning in-laws
but they stated that "if that's not possible, at least always maintain the respect. They shared
the conclusion that their hardest adjustments to marriage were "being accepting and
understanding to my spouse. Changing actions and ways of thinking out of respect for him/her.
Also, having someone always be there".
I can personally relate to a lot of the answers here. My husband and I have been
married for about 5 years and I know some of these to be true for us as well. While I don't
feel like it should make a husband feel like any less of a man if his wife makes more, I do know
that my husband is always pretty happy when he makes more than I do. We're generally
playing a game of wage leap frog and at the moment, he's "winning". While we're not really
competitive about it, I know it makes him feel better about his role of husband and father.
The second couple I interviewed via email and the husband is a mutual friend of mine
and my husband's. They are in their late 20's I believe and have only been married maybe 3 or 4
years. The most important tasks for them in order to have a successful marriage were to live
together before you decide to get married, to "take everyday chores and tasks and do them
together." And they also emphasized the importance of just spending time together. In
response to a woman making more than her husband they both said "Yes." It is okay and that it
can only strengthen the marriage because "A wife's success is a husband's success." I personally
love that answer! They also stated that a close relationship to his/her own parents is important
and that in-laws should feel welcome and like part of the family. She claimed that she had no
difficult adjustments to marriage. He admitted that his hardest adjustment was "having the
mother-in-law over EVERY weekend."
I love this couple's response to a lot of these questions. They seem to me as if they are
still almost in that honeymoon stage after 3+ years. I think the idea of cohabiting before
marriage has some good backing. My husband and I lived together for about six years before
finally getting married and I think that gave us a lot of insight into our compatibilities and our
differences. While there are still some differences such as maintaining separate incomes, there
is definitely much to be gained. I enjoyed this essay and the interview processes. It's good to
gain different perspectives and to realize that the relationship struggles we have are not
uncommon. It also gives light to a support system that many don't consider when faced with
problems. I don't think it's ever a bad idea to seek advice from friends.


Strong, B. & Cohen, T. F. (2014). The marriage and family experience: Intimate
relationships in a changing society (13th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Reflective writing (young marrieds):

This assignment definitely had a positive impact on my ideas of marriage. It helped to

reinforce my beliefs and restore my faith in a seemingly antiquated tradition. It was so nice to
talk to other young married couples and have a conversation about them and their
relationships. It seems that our views of marriage are a bit jaded these days. I think the fresh
perspective from younger married couples is a one we don't generally see. Media is full of
relationship drama and marriages failing left and right. What a beautiful thing it was to hear
from real, relatable, couples.

My process was a bit more complicated with this essay. Within my group of friends and
acquaintances, it was surprisingly difficult to find two couples whom fit the criteria. When I had
successfully found my couples, it was also a challenge to coordinate schedules in order for an
interview. I had to resort to an interview via email with one couple but I still enjoyed the
conversation. None of their answers necessarily surprised me. However, it was fun to hear the
dialog between them as they tried to collaborate answers.
I think this assignment demonstrates my research abilities. While we can gain a lot of
information from our text, it is in real world implications that we really absorb what we've
learned. I feel I was able to use my resources effectively and even improvise when necessary.
This assignment has taught me that most couples go through similar trials and some have
different processes for working through them. I've learned that if we open ourselves up to
suggestion and really learn to listen, we'll be far more successful in many aspects of our lives.