Family: meaning, characteristics, function and types (2023)


Family: meaning, properties, functions and types!


The family is an intimate domestic group made up of people related by blood, sexual mating, or legal ties. It is the smallest and most basic social unit, which is also the most important primary group in any society.

It is the simplest and most elementary group in a society. It is a social group consisting of a father, a mother and one or more children. It is the most immediate group to which a child is exposed. In fact, it is the most enduring group, having a tremendous impact on an individual's life from birth to death. It also explains the most enduring social relationship in society. The family has been defined by several social scientists.


Some of these definitions are listed below:

"The family is a group defined by a sexual relationship precise and lasting enough to provide for the procreation and education of children."

– Maclver

"The family is almost without a doubt the most important of all groups that the human experience offers...the always with us, or rather we are with it."


– Robert Bierstedt

"Family is a more or less permanent union of husband and wife, with or without children, or of a single man or woman with children."

– MF Nimkow

"The family is the biological social unit composed of husband, wife and children".


-Eliot e Merrill

“Family is a group of people united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption forming a single household, living in their respective social roles as husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister and creator, interacting with each other. others. and communicate a common culture.'

- Burgess e Locke

"A family is a group of people whose relationships are based on blood ties and who are therefore related to each other."


–Kingsley Davis


1. The family is a universal group. It is found in one form or another in all types of societies, primitive or modern.

2. A family is based on marriage resulting in a mating relationship between two adults of the opposite sex.

3. Each family names an individual and is therefore a source of naming.


4. Family is the group through which lineage or ancestry can be traced.

5. Family is the most important group in everyone's life.

6. The family is the most basic and important group in the individual's primary socialization.

7. A family is generally limited in size, including large, joint, and extended families.


8. The family is the most important group in society; it is the core of all institutions, organizations and groups.

9. The family is based on emotions and feelings. Mating, procreation, maternal and fraternal devotion, love and affection are the basis of family ties.

10. The family is a unit of affective and economic cooperation.

11. Each family member shares duties and responsibilities.


12. Each family is composed of husband and wife and/or one or more children, natural and adopted.

13. Each family is made up of different social roles such as husband, wife, mother, father, children, brothers or sisters.

family characteristics:

As a social group and as an important social institution, the family fulfills several functions, namely:

1. The family is the unit through which procreation takes place. Marriage sanctions sexual relations and also establishes a family, which is further strengthened by the birth of children.

2. The reproductive process is institutionalized, regulated and controlled in a family. The family legitimizes the act of reproduction.

3. The family helps in the procreation of the human species and in the continuity of the human race.


4. The family gives identity to the individual.

5. Through the family, each surname is passed from generation to generation.

6. The family is responsible for the generation and education of children.

7. The family is an important vehicle for socialization. The primary socialization of each individual takes place within the family. Immediate family members teach the child all the basic rules and regulations of social life.

8. The family is also an important actor in cultural transmission. Culture is passed from one generation to another through the family. All aspects of culture are learned within the family structure.

9. The family is a great source of emotional and psychological strength for its members. All members are aware that they can rely on their families in times of need.


10. The family provides a home and builds lasting social relationships.

11. The family is the basis of the division of labor, in which all members have tasks and duties towards one another.

12. A family provides for the economic needs of its members. This role has changed, with households moving from previous units of production and consumption to more units of consumption than units of production. Today, family members no longer produce alone; Instead, they go out and work for monetary compensation or salary.

13. The family is traditionally responsible for the education of children.

14. The family also has a recreational function. Previously, most recovery was based on the family. Family gatherings during festivals, events, family gatherings, weddings brought whole families together. Nowadays, it has the same function of taking family members on vacation or to the cinema, theater, dinner or party, etc.

species or forms of the family:

We'll look at some of the family types in this section (Figure 1).

A description of the previous classification of family types or forms is explained below:

1. Based on Birth:

Family Oriented:

The family into which an individual is born is his family of reference.

breeder family:

The family a person settles into after marriage is his procreative family.

Guidance and parenting family may live under the same roof, but they are still distinguishable.

2. Due to marriage:


Monogamous family:

This family consists of husband and wife and children and is based on monogamous marriages.

Polygamous Family:

A family consisting of one husband and more than one wife, and all children born or adopted by each of the wives. This type of family is based on the polygynous form of marriage.

polyandrous family:

The family formed by a woman and more than one husband and the children born or adopted with each of them. This family is based on a polyandrous marriage.

3. Based on residency:


Families with physical residence:

When a couple resides with their spouse, the family is called a matrilocal resident family.

Family with patrilocal residence:

When a family resides in the man's house, it is called a family of patrilocal residence.

Family moving house:

When a family stays at the husband's house for a while and moves to the wife's house, stays there for a while and then returns to the husband's parents' house or moves to another place, the family is called a resident family. .

4. Based on ancestry or lineage:

maternal family:

When lineage or ancestry is traced through the female line or the maternal side, the family is called a matrilineal family.

Patrilineal Family:

A family in which authority is passed down the male line and descent is traced through the male line or the paternal side is called a patrilineal family.

5. Based on authority:

Matriarchal Family:

Matriarchal families are usually found in matrilineal societies. In these families, the woman is the head of the family and authority corresponds to her. The succession of assets occurs through the female line, that is, only the daughters inherit the assets.

After marriage, the husband takes up residence in the wife's house and the lineage is traced through the mother's side. Here the children grow up in their mother's house. In matriarchal societies there is a matrilocal system. Matriarchal families only exist in matrilineal societies, the number of which is very limited worldwide. They are found in parts of Latin America, Ceylon, parts of Africa and India (Khasis and Garos).

Patriarchal Family:

Patriarchal families are common in all parts of the world as most societies in the world are patrilineal societies. In patriarchal families, the head of the family is a man and authority is vested in him. Descent and property are passed down the male line, and children are brought up in the father's house. These families are patrilocal in nature.

6. Depending on the type of relationship:

Marital family:

The conjugal family consists of adults between whom there is a sexual relationship. It refers to a family system of spouses and their dependent children. The focus is on the marital relationship that exists between spouses. In modern times, the term "marital family" is used for couples who are in a long-term sexual relationship but are not actually married.

blood related family:

A blood family consists of members who are related by blood or who are related by blood, that is, a family consisting of parents and children or siblings (brothers, sisters or brothers).

7. Depending on the condition or structure:

Nuclear family:

A nuclear family is a small group formed by a husband, wife and children, natural or adopted. It is more or less an independent entity that is not under the control of adults or seniors in the family. It consists of only two generations. In all modern societies, the nuclear family is the most common type of family. Indeed, the nuclear family is both the consequence and the cause of the dissolution of the whole family.

common family:

A joint family consists of three generations living together under one roof, sharing the same kitchen and sharing the same purse or financial expenses. It is a family made up of three nuclear families who live together. According to Iravati Karve, a common family is “a group of people who generally live under the same roof, who eat food prepared in a house, who have common property and who attend joint family worship and are related to each other as some kind of child special.'

In Figure 2, Ego (the shaded figure) is part of a common family composed of four generations: children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, all on the father's side. These types of joint families are also known as patriarchal (father-centered) or patrilineal (paternal or male) joint families.

In these families, only unmarried daughters, or sometimes widowed daughters, belong to the family. Married daughters cease to belong to the family, as they become part of their husbands' families. In the case of matriarchal (mother-centered) or matrilineal (maternal or female lineage or descent) joint families, daughters become part of the joint family, while sons become part of the joint family, the families of their wives. .

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