Fictive Kin Networks among African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and Non-Latino Whites

J Fam Issues. 2022 Jan;43(1):20-46. doi: 10.1177/0192513x21993188. Epub 2021 Feb 19.


Using data from the National Survey of American Life, we investigated the social and demographic correlates of fictive kin network involvement among African Americans, Black Caribbeans, and non-Latino Whites. Specifically, we examined the factors shaping whether respondents have fictive kin, the number of fictive present kin in their networks, and the frequency with which they received support from fictive kin. Eighty-seven percent of respondents had a fictive kin relationship, the average network size was 7.5, and 61% of participants routinely received fictive kin support. Affective closeness and contact with family, friends, and church members were positively associated with fictive kin relations. Age, region, income and marital and parental status were related to fictive kin network involvement, though these associations varied by race/ethnicity. Collectively, findings indicate that fictive kin ties extend beyond marginalized communities, and they operate as a means to strengthen family bonds, rather than substitute for family deficits.

Keywords: Black Americans; West Indians; church support; extended family; friends.