Objectives. The purpose here is to identify those processes that account fo
r the more active and supportive kinship networks among Black oldest old th
an found among their White age peers.
Methods. Focused interviews were conducted with 122 Blacks 85 years and old
er. Both open-ended and semistructured questions were asked in order to det
ermine how Blacks defined family and kinship membership, their expectations
for kin, and the desired levels of reciprocity.
Findings. A content analysis of the responses indicated that Blacks defined
the boundaries of their families flexibly so as to include fictive kin, an
d they upgraded more distant kin into the status of primary kin. They also
emphasized the importance of collateral relatives so as to expand the size
of the network.
Discussion. These processes use personal choices as well as immediate needs
to expand the basis of relatedness beyond blood and marriage. Thus the sup
portive capacities of networks increase in order to serve a potentially vul