The <relatedSubjects> element establishes associative relationships between each child subject and every other child subject (unless the association is restricted by the linking attribute of the subjects).
For filtering and flagging, processors need only inspect the subordinate hierarchies under category subjects that are bound to attributes. Filtering and flagging processors do not have to understand specific types of relationships. Explicit relationships are useful primarily for information viewers with advanced capabilities.
The content provider can identify the relationship by specifying a keys attribute, label the relationship by specifying a navtitle element or attribute, and provide a consensus definition of the relationship including by referencing a topic. If the relationship has an identifying key, the content provider can use the keyref attribute to specify the same relationship for different subjects.
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OASIS DITA Version 1.2 -- OASIS Standard, 1 December 2010
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