Family and Parenthood


What is a Family?

What a Family Provides

A family is the basic unit of society. It's a group of people living together, who are married, or co-habit (live together), or who are related by birth/blood or adaption.

A family provides a secure and stable environment with good role models and appropriate routines, encouragement and praise which helps develop self-esteem and confidence, love, affection and comfort, communication skills, food, clothing and a suitable housing environment, physical and health care, culture and socialisation skills. 

Babies' basic needs are met by parents who teach them what is expected of them as they grow. This is primary socialisation. Later, they're influenced by the society they live in. This is known as secondary socialisation.

Types of Family

There are a number of different types of family:

Nuclear -> parents and children live together in a home away from other family members. There is less interference from other family members however contact is limited and practical help from them isn't easily available. 

Extended -> parents and children live with, or near, other relatives like grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There is practical help with child care and emotional support however there may be interference with and arguments over how best to look after the children.

Step (reconstitued/modified/blended) -> formed when one or both parents in a couple, with children from a previous relationship, re-marry or co-habit. Before only-children may now have new siblings however new relationships can be difficult to establish.

Single-Parent (lone/one-parent) -> mostly, but not always, comprises a mother and her children. This can be the result of divorce, the death of a parent, adoption by a single parent, an absent parent, a surrogacy arrangment, a single woman giving birth through choice or a single woman giving birth after a sexual attack. In a single-parent family, one parent has responsibility for the daily care and decision making. This arrangement may provide a less stressful environment for the children, but can increase pressure on the parent.

Shared Care -> children live in two households and spend time with both parents. Joint decisions are made about them and children maintain relationships with both parents. 

Adoptive -> adoptive parents have to pass rigorous tests by social services. Adoptive parents come from a wide range of backgrounds, such as nuclear families, single-parent families and same-sex couples. Adoptive parents provide a permanent home for babies and older children. A court gives them the same legal rights and responsibilities as birth parents. Reasons for adopting are numerous and include infertility, adoption after marriage, adoption of a family member, adoption of a disadvantaged child from the UK or abroad, adoption by couples who carry genetic defects.

Foster and Residential Care

Looked-After Children

Looked-after children are looked after by (or are in the care of) the local authority, through social services. This could be the result of a care order in agreement with the children's parents. Looked-after children have a named social worker. There may be a number of reasons why these children may not be


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