Chimpanzees live in large groups featuring remarkable levels of gregariousness and cooperation among the males. Because males stay in their natal communities their entire lives and are hence expected to be living with male relatives, cooperation is therefore assumed to occur within one large ‘family’ group. However, we found that the average relatedness among males within several chimpanzee groups as determined by microsatellite analysis is in fact rather low, and only rarely significantly higher than average relatedness of females in the groups or of males compared across groups. To explain these findings, mathematical predictions for average relatedness according to group size, reproductive skew and sex bias in dispersal were derived. The results show that high average relatedness among the philopatric sex is only expected in very small groups, which is confirmed by a comparison with published data. Our study therefore suggests that interactions among larger number of individuals may not be primarily driven by kin relationships.