What is a family? Single-Parent families.

Essay by nolivierUniversity, Master's September 2005

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What is a "Family"?

Personal Definition:

The family is a domestic group with a lasting association, which the members may or not be biologically related. It functions as a unit for the purposes of resource sharing and providing mutual emotional support while perpetuating tradition and values.

This definition incorporates several parts of familial components. The structure is defined within the first sentence. The function of the family in this definition is present in the second part of the definition. Both the cultural and emotional aspects are integrated into the functioning of the family as a unit. While my definition is fairly broad, it still lacks familial roles and procedures, and legalities. In doing so it disregards sexual regulations and the possibility to grant services. Here two problems lie. One is that the more inclusive the definition of family, the less meaningful it becomes. Then another problem is created given that most Americans desire to be part of a "family" and want to be incorporated into its official definition yet not everyone fits the same mold.

Hence the question of who or what a family is cannot be answered. Therefore the very definition of what constitutes a family needs to be evaluated.

Evaluating the Family:

Is the family declining? Some would say yes. I say it is a matter of whether the changes creating such decline disturb or disrupt the ultimate function and purposes of the family in which it becomes dysfunctional beyond repair. Popenoe (1993) describes these changes as marital roles, family structure and marital dissolution, marriage and nonfamily living. While I believe these are the components in which the family has continually changed in the past 40 years, I also see that the family has adapted to the increase in divorce, out-of-wedlock births, mothers in the workforce and pre-marital...