Families and Households - The Family


The Family 1/4

There are families, and then there are households.

A household can be one person living alone, or a group of people who live at the same address, but the members of the household must share the facilities in a meaningful way.

A family is a group of people who are related through kinship (blood, marriage/civil partnership, adoption. Cohabitation is people in a relationship living together without being married.

Kinship simply refers to relations through blood, marriage, etc, and goes beyond the immediate family to include the extended family, and had a larger role in past societal values

The nuclear family is arguably the most common type of family, featuring two generations (parents and children) living in the same household.

The classic extended family is made up of three generations or more who live together/by each other (typical of pre-industrial societies).

The reconstituted family is formed by adults who have married previously and being children from their previous marriage into the new, forming a new family unit.

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The Family 2/4

George Murdock (1949) looked at 250 societies and claimed that some form of the family existed in each, and that the basic family unit across the world is the nuclear family, therefore concluding that the nuclear family is universal.

He also defined the family as a social group characterised by common residence, economic co-operation, reproduction, adults of both sexes, one or more children of these adults.

However, Murdock said one adult of each sex yet many children are raised in households that don’t contain both sexes, the main focus of families is allegedly the rearing of children yet this isn’t always the case,

Sheeran (1993)-the female-carer core is the most basic family unit,

Callahan (1997)- lgbt couples should be seen as a family because if they were allowed to marry their relationships aren’t that different to those of the straights, (and they are allowed to marry, as of 2k14)

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There are six other notable forms of family

The Nayar: from the southwest of India, a tribe with no form of nuclear family present, any woman can have sex with up to 12 men, meaning biological fathers are uncertain. The mother’s brother assumes responsibility for the child and mother, there’s no link between cohabitation/marriage and the biological parents

Communes: primarily developed in Western Europe, Britain, the US in the 60s, an alternative lifestyle to conventional society obtained through unique living arrangements (collective living, not individual family units), allowing adults and children to live and work together, with children a group responsibility, however a short-lived style of living

The Kibbutz: child rearing is separate from marriage, children were kept from their natural parents for most of the time and raised by an Ibu Kos in children only houses, the role of the natural parents is limited, done from the belief that children are the community’s responsibility rather than individual parents, so the community aims to meet the needs of the child. Children move through a series of houses with others of the same age until they are adults; slightly out of favour in Israel today but still an important alternative to conventional structures

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The Family 4/4

Lone parent families: increasingly common in western society, traditionally headed by women though it’s increasingly common for fathers to get custody, a clear alternative to the nuclear family, the number has risen from 2.5 million to 3 million since 1999. 

Gay and Lesbian families: same-sex couples with children are becoming increasingly common, most same-sex couples with children tend to be lesbian couples, the number of families has risen from 6 to7% between 2013-2014. 2004 Civil Partnership Act gave gay and lesbian families similar rights as married hetero couples, only with the title civil partner. 2014 Marriage Act gave gay and lesbian couples the same rights as hetero couples. 

Foster Care and Children’s homes: a proportion of children are looked after by local authorities or foster parents, separating the link between natural parents and rearing children, parents and children may not have lifelong relationships and parents may have several partners in the space of child’s life or may be unable to provide for a child

Therefore the nuclear family isn’t universal or needed, with may other family types present raise children in a multitude of ways, presenting the argument that the nuclear family isn't the main form of family needed to successfully raise children. 

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