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Why Cousins Are Special and Their Roles in Our Lives

Grandparent, added to MsDora's profile of teacher and counselor after she became a senior citizen, gives her a new interest to explore.

A brief overview of family genealogy.

A brief overview of family genealogy.

The Importance of Cousins

  • From our toddler days to our declining years, we recognize our cousins—particularly the ones we like—as special people.
  • During our childhood, they are not in our presence as often as siblings, but their presence, whenever they appear, brings maximum pleasure.
  • In our adult lives, some cousins are closer and more supportive than siblings. Throughout our lives, they play different roles, all special.

For those who need clarification, here are a few explanations on the cousin relationship. You do not have to memorize them in order to understand the rest of the article.

After the definitions, we will refer only to first and second cousins.


First Cousins

  • Cousins are the children of our aunts and uncles. We share one set of grandparents with them. These are our first cousins as illustrated in the diagram.
  • Our cousins’ children are our first cousins once removed because we are one generation apart. (They are NOT our second cousins).
  • Our cousin’s grandchildren are our first cousins twice removed, and so on.

Second Cousins

  • Our children and our cousins’ children are second cousins. They share one set of great-grandparents.
Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston are first cousins.

Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston are first cousins.


  • Whitney and Dionne had the same grandfather, Nitcholas Drinkard.
  • Dionne's mother (Lee Drinkard) and Whitney's mother (Cissy Drinkard Houston) are siblings.
  • Dionne and Whitney's daughter (Bobbi Kristina) are first cousins once removed.
  • Dionne's children and Bobbi Kristina are second cousins.
Credit: QuotesnHumor

Credit: QuotesnHumor

Five Specific Roles Cousins Fill In Our Lives

(1) Substitutes for Siblings

My mother has an only child, but her 2 sisters and 2 brothers produced a sum total of 30 children.

My father died when I was a toddler, but his 2 sisters and 2 brothers produced a sum total of 15 children.

My parents gave me neither brother nor sister, but their siblings gave me 45 first cousins, 5 of whom are older than I am. Of the 5 older ones, the 4 females have provided me with close sister-like relationships at different times. As for the older male and the younger cousins, we enjoy catching-up sessions which are often years apart.

It is safe to assume that other people in my only-child situation have proven their cousins to be very significant when:

  • They take on the roles of aunts and uncles to your children, because they are your substitutes for siblings.
  • Their children and your children are introduced as second cousins.
  • They back up your stories about your grandparents.

(2) Playground Protectors

Children feel safer on the school playground, if they can count on someone to show up when a bully is around. They become confident when someone points out the muscular guy or the feisty girl as their cousin.

Teenagers also appreciate cousin protection. A teenager on Angels Online refers to his cousin as a “living guardian angel.” Still another on Teen Ink states, “I am the oldest of four children . . . I don’t have a sibling to look up to. [My cousin] is the one . . . who is always there for me. . . Even when I post a Facebook status and it seems like something is wrong, she will always text me and make sure everything is okay.”

My cousin and I still laugh about our primary school days when she was willing to fight anyone who bothered me, and even the ones who just looked like they could be a problem. Back then, I felt sorry for any child who did not have a cousin like mine.

(3) Social Supporters

In families which foster healthy relationships, male cousins guard their dating female cousins as rigidly as do fathers and brothers. They are deliberately present at functions when their cousins are not quite sure what to expect. They want to be seen with their female cousins to establish that:

  • The girls are not deprived of male attention.
  • The dates must impress not only the girls, but also the cousins.
  • The men dare not try any kind of abuse.

Female cousins are just as careful about the dating life of the males. They filter their judgments of their cousins’ dates through their female intuition. Wise young women know that one way to beat the competition for a man’s attention is to befriend his close, female cousin.

Close cousins in same and opposite genders talk freely about their love life; they share advice; they play sleuth for each other on the matter of lovers’ loyalties. Their secrets are safer with cousins than with siblings because their parents are less likely to probe cousins. Their support at each other's weddings means the world.

(4) Guardians for Our Children

Our children travel miles away from home to attend college and university. Chances are, there are cousins residing much closer than we are to the campuses. Rather than make the long journey home, our children find it exciting to visit with cousins. The cousins assume the role of temporary guardian, making occasional calls, offering a home away from home; and a permanent meaningful relationship develops.

Many of my cousins resided in the state where one of my children found employment. They extended invitations to holiday dinners and other family functions. The second cousins (my child and the children of my cousins) developed their own relationships. Their connections were probably more exciting to me than to them.

(5) Co-Authors of Our History

There have been times when we the cousins--children of our grandmother’s children, have talked about the old lady now deceased. It is interesting how unique each one's perception is.

Some of us lived with her, but at different times; some never did. Some born abroad only paid her short visits. Some of us migrated while she was still an active laborer; some knew her best after she suffered a stroke. We saw her in different stages of her life when she exhibited different attitudes and abilities.

Most cousins in other families have a similar experience concerning their grandparents—the oldest ancestor some of them know. The most comprehensive set of information we can obtain about our ancestors and our family history will have to be contributed by our cousins. If for no other reason than establishing our history, we have to admit that our cousins are special.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is the importance of cousins relationship?

Answer: For individuals who have no brothers and sisters, cousins fill the sibling gap.

Those in our age group provide companionship and social support. The older ones tell stories about our grandparents and share their memories of historical family events. The younger ones pull at our heartstrings and bring out the love we still have to share.

These are the relationship benefits that my cousins and I enjoy. A gathering of cousins is among the most precious of life's events.

Question: What are the roles of cousins in our lives?

Answer: It is possible for cousins to play different roles in different lives. May I tell you the roles of my cousins in my life? Perhaps you can relate to some of them.

1. They were my compensation for my lack of brothers and sisters.

2. They were my protectors from bullies on the school playground

3. They were my counselors in the business of love.

4. They are substitute aunts and uncles for my children.

5. They are co-compilers of our ancestors' history.

6. They are the confidants with whom I share my life's struggles.

© 2013 Dora Weithers


Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 27, 2020:

Tim, I'm responding two years after you wrote your comment, because somehow I missed it. Hoping that you are still in contact with super-cousin Melissa. Blessings on you both!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2018:

Natalie, you're welcome. Those memories come in handy when days are rough and we look back to happier times.

Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on August 25, 2018:

Just read this one. It made me nostalgic as I have a ton of cousins I grew up with and we were always together doing things. Thanks for calling the memories to mind. Great article!

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on July 22, 2018:

I love this article, Ms. Dora. I have fond memories of one of my cousins, a young lady who would baby sit us and take us to church on Sundays. Afterwards, she would take us to the playground and tell us stories and play her acoustic guitar. Melisa is a teacher in Washington, D.C. now, but she is a super cousin.

Thanks for reminding me I need to call her today.

Much respect,

Thanks for providing a wonderful article and putting a smile on my face.



Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2014:

Thanks OhMe. Hope the cousin enjoys it too.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on August 27, 2014:

I loved this and will share with a very special cousin! Thanks.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 25, 2013:

Kackie, where there's life, there's hope. Your cousins may right now be praying for a re-connection. All the best!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 24, 2013:

Wow I never understood cousins at all! Thanks. I had some really close ones as a child but now it has been forever. Such a shame. ^

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 24, 2013:

Tamarajo, cousin relationships can be complicated. Glad you understand it better now. Thank you for your input. All the best to you and your cousins going forward!

Tamarajo on December 23, 2013:

It's true that I have a cousin that is more like a sister to me and closer to me than either of my brothers. We closely bonded because our mothers lived together for awhile during a trying time in their lives and we were very close in age.

I appreciated all the info on how cousins are counted as in first cousin once removed. I never really understood how that worked. Your explanation made it very clear. I just always called my cousins kids my second cousins which I see would be incorrect.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 20, 2013:

Nell, sorry about your parents not getting along. It would be great if the cousins bumped into each other, and decided to get along, anyway. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 20, 2013:

My Cook book, you're very welcome. Hope you also have some cousins to enjoy. Thanks for commenting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 20, 2013:

Crafty, happy for you and the one special cousin. Wish you could find some of the others on Facebook or some other similar way. However, enjoy what you have. Thank you for sharing.

Dil Vil from India on December 19, 2013:

Wow an informative and well written hub. Thank you for the good hub.

Nell Rose from England on December 19, 2013:

I have second cousins that we never see due to our parents never getting on which is really sad, and reading how many you have in your family is amazing! it must be lovely!

CraftytotheCore on December 19, 2013:

I was fortunate growing up to have a lot of cousins. As I got older, the family started separating. Relationships were lost. I do have one cousin that has been there when I needed help. When I was having surgery, she helped me with the children on multiple occasions. I truly appreciate her. She has two children around the ages of mine, so we often get together for play dates.

Thank you for such an important Hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 17, 2013:

RTalloni, you're right. Family relationships are still super-important. These kinds of relationships can offer some of the support we need to maintain our mental and emotional balance. Thank you for your input.

RTalloni on December 17, 2013:

In this social climate it is refreshing to read about the importance of maintaining good relationships with cousins. The mockery of the family that is so popular today feeds hideous arrogance and is extremely ignorant. A reminder that it is important to maintain relationships with family members is a good thing for everyone!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 16, 2013:

Vibesites, you are indeed quite lucky, and I'm happy for you. Cousins rock! Also glad that you understand how to label the relationship; took me awhile too.

vibesites from United States on December 16, 2013:

LOL I always thought that my first cousins' children are *my* second cousins. So they're actually my first cousins once removed. Now I finally understand!

I see my cousins as my half-sibling and half-friend. There are certain things that you can do with and say (or confess) to your cousin that you can't do to your siblings and friends. I'm quite lucky for having such good cousins. :)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 16, 2013:

Happy for you, LyricWriter, that you enjoyed your cousins in your earlier years. Life happens and we get separated, but only physically. Thank you or sharing.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on December 15, 2013:

Very cool article MsDora. My cousins were very important growing up and even today. I never see any of them anymore, but I'd be there in a flash if they needed me. Such an interesting article and perspective, A+ quality. Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, and interesting.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 15, 2013:

Torrilynn, thank you for your comment. For some of us, cousins are everything; if not for you, then I'm sure there are others in your support system. The different scenarios make life interesting!

torrilynn on December 14, 2013:

I would have never though how a cousin can play an important role in someone's life. Thanks for the read. Voted up.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 13, 2013:

Marie, you're ahead of many of us. We're just learning what "cousin removed" means. I certainly understand your connection with that male cousin. We wonder how anyone could not see what a special person our cousin is. Thank you for your contribution.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 13, 2013:

DDE, yes cousins do look alike, and I have two in particular, one younger and one older, who shared a similar resemblance. I don't know if we still do, after so many years. Thanks for your input.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 13, 2013:

Frank, glad you had the happy experience of cousins. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 13, 2013:

Venki, very pleased to meet you here on HP. Thank you for your comment.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on December 13, 2013:

My mother-in-law explained the "cousin-once-removed" concept to me. I haven't forgotten it since. She passed away in 1991.

Cousins in my family don't fulfill quite the same roles as yours, but you were an only child, so a cousin is more special for you than for me. I always enjoyed their company when visiting. One male cousin, slightly older than I, was my favorite. I myself expressed some defense of him when I learned of his divorce (his wife filed). "What?" I said in disbelief. "He is a good man!" Funny I should react that way because it was really none of my business. I still remember our crab apple fights in the back yard. We enjoyed those.

Yes, cousins provide a certain familial tie that helps put things into perspective.

Thank you for sharing. ***

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 13, 2013:

Roles That Make Cousins Special has lovely photos of resemblances especially the one with Whitney Houston and Dion Warwick. I have many cousins and we do share a resemblance of something special

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on December 12, 2013:

Msdora you come up with different topics.. amazing, amusing and entertaining. This one is no exception.. yeah at grandma's when we were young is when we first met cousins.. bless your family

Venkat from Chennai on December 12, 2013:

A family with more children may have more cousins in future for their children. Nowadays, it is very rare to happen like that. Thanks for your hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Flourish, the numbers on those second cousins surely multiply. Happy for your daughter! Your family is blessed to have cousins living close and attending the same school. Enjoy it and appreciate it. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Thank you, Faith. Cousins are a rich topic whether we talk or write about them. Even better when we talk with them or write to them. Sometimes, it takes a wedding or funeral, or some other family function to bring cousins together.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 12, 2013:

My daughter is an only child but is lucky to have 12 first cousins and more second cousins than we can count. She even goes to school and is in the same class with some of them, so it is extra special. Cousins are wonderful to have, especially when you live close.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on December 12, 2013:

Interesting choice for a topic of a hub. If one's cousins live nearby, it is all the more better for that wonderful family togetherness. My cousins do not live nearby and we are spread out everywhere. I would have loved to have gotten to know my cousins much better.

Up and more and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Tireless, I am impressed that you know the actual count of your cousins. I've counted mine too. Reconnecting is also a fulfilling experience. Thank you for your input.

Judy Specht from California on December 12, 2013:

Splendid hub. Delighted you figured how to get this featured. I have cousins I have never met. and cousins that we can hang out with and talk forever. We just reconnected with a cousin we haven't seen since 1978. We had lots to catch up to do. Cousins are the best. I only have 30.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Sheila, from the basic definition in the article, you have to literally count to determine how far removed the cousins are. It would be fun to draw up your chart. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Jan, I'm also grateful to learn and understand the levels of cousin hood. The cousins are all special, but it's great to be able to label them correctly. Thank you for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Ron, a cousin no matter how the relationship is caused is special. Thank you for your input.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Doc, glad you had a taste of the cousin experience, no matter how small. God is good in that He compensated you with great friends. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Denise, thank you for sharing. Time spent at Grandma's house was always precious and memorable. Also happy about your son's experience which is similar to mine.

sheilamyers on December 12, 2013:

Some of my first cousins match your description and a few others don't. There are five of us who are within three years of age of each other. We five were almost like brothers and sisters when we got together. The younger three cousins are between 10 and 15 years younger and, at times, were almost like out own kids. Even though we don't keep in touch as often, we're all still very close friends.

And then there are the "cousins" who I'd need a much more complicated chart in order to tell you what number they are and how many times removed. I've met them at family reunions and, not surprising in this day and age, through social networking sites. You're so right in saying these are the cousins who can often help us learn our family history. I've learned so much about my family through these newly discovered cousins.

Janis Leslie Evans from Washington, DC on December 12, 2013:

Very interesting and original article, MsDora. Thnaks for sharing and clarifying the levels of cousinhood. I was blessed with many first cousins with whom I remain in contact. Up and interesting.

Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on December 12, 2013:

You remind me of how great my cousins have been in my life. I never had siblings, but had a close substitute in a cousin who lived with my mom and me when I was growing up. And when I got married, it was my cousins who traveled hundreds of miles to come to the wedding. So, thanks, MsDora, for helping me appreciate my cousins.

Sallie Beatrice Middlebrook PhD from Texas, USA on December 12, 2013:

Such an interesting article, MsDora. Enjoyed reading it, and as I did, I tried thinking back on my own "cousin" experiences. My mother had me and five of my siblings later in life, so most of our first cousins are nearly a generation older than we are. That knocked out the "cousin experience" for us with them, in many ways. The cousins that are closer to our age lived far away, so we didn't really grow up together either. Although I'm close to a few cousins, here and there, I have made lifelong friends that I'm much closer to than most of my cousins. Still, I enjoyed your article and the reflections it inspired.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on December 12, 2013:

I have many fond memories of gatherings at my grandmother's house and time spent with my cousins. My own children have also had similar experiences. My only son had many brothers because of the close relationships he had with his cousins.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Eric, that must have been a great experience growing up with cousins. Great thing your parents did! Thank you for sharing.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on December 12, 2013:

Mom and dad were only surviving children. So we got to adopt our cousins and that was very cool. Now my children are very close with their cousins. I like it.

Thanks for a great hub.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Bill, glad to conjure up those cousin memories. Having no siblings, my cousins are about all the childhood memories I have. Thanks for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on December 12, 2013:

Lifegate, I finally understood the "cousin thing" too, while preparing this article. So happy to find someone else who didn't understand it; happier that you now do. Thank you for sharing.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 12, 2013:

Interesting topic, Dora, one I have not seen before and that alone makes it unique here at HP. Well done. I was thinking about my cousins who I haven't seen for decades. :) Thanks for the memories.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on December 12, 2013:

Hi MsDora,

I always thought the cousin thing was confusing what with first and second; removed this removed tha,. but your chart is so clear I finally get it. I never thought much about all that cousins are to each other except that they are family, but again you make it very plain about relationships of cousins. I have some cousins I wouldn't trade for the world. Thanks for this interesting hub.