Avoidance is designed to avoid intimacy and closeness among certain members in a family or kinship groups. Certain relatives need to maintain distance and avoid each other so that they do not enter into incestuous relationship (taboo) or conflicts with one another. These avoidance rules are generally practiced between female-inlaws and male in-laws or son-in-laws and daughter-in-laws.
Reasons for the practice of avoidance behavior:
There are various reasons cited by the social anthropologists for the practice of avoidance behavior. According to Tylor, in the matriarchal families of earlier times, son-inlaw used to stay in his wife’s family and as a stranger to that house, he avoided his mother- in-law. Frazer opined that among some primitive tribes, avoidance was common among brothers and sisters in order to prevent any sexual intimacy between them. Low felt that avoidance rules were attached to the daughterin-law who came from another background and had to adjust to new social, cultural and moral attitudes.
Consequently, she remained alien to new family. So, to avoid any probable sexual harassment from the male members of the new family, she generally avoided any direct intimacy. Radcliffe Brown has provided the most contemporary explanation, when he said that people coming from another family may always face difficulty in coping with the new family and the chances of conflict are high, so to avoid such possibility, society has offered the rule of avoidance. Also to help the daughter-in-law avoid facing role conflict between her role of a daughter in law and that of a wife, it was advised that she maintained avoidance and distance from her parents-in-law.
Thus, it seems that initially it was introduced so that sexual relations could be restricted to formal relationships. At the same time, the intention to prevent any possibility of hostile relationship between two kin group members was also one of the reasons for the introduction of avoidance behavior.