Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Communication Research 24:3 (1996), pp. 200-216.

doi: 10.1080/00909889609365451


Copyright © 1996 National Communication Association; published by Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Families are an important source of social support, and little scholarship exists regarding how family members stay in touch and provide support for one another. Kinkeepers are said to provide support and keep family members informed about one another, yet there has been little research on who family kinkeepers are and how they communicate and enact this role. Two studies were undertaken. The first study used surveys to provide demographic data on kinkeepers and to ascertain information on their activities. The second study used diaries and interviews to document the activities of a set of kinkeepers and to describe outcomes of kinkeeping communication. These studies revealed that kinkeepers are mostly females between the ages of 40 and 59 who use the telephone and personal visits predominantly. Five outcomes of kinkeeping communication were identified: providing information, facilitating rituals, providing assistance, maintaining family relationships, and continuing a previous kinkeeper’s work.