How Do You Define Family?
That’s a tough question to answer. Even the dictionary offers multiple definitions for the word.
A few decades ago, the word family, in most people’s eyes, referred to a mother, a father, and their children. Fast forward to present day, and beyond any personal feelings you may have, you’ll find that families come in all different forms, and the word can carry a different meaning depending on who you ask.
Apart from the pure legal definition, families today are often a mix of stepparents, half siblings, same sex parents, extended family members, etc. Additionally (and beyond the biology), many people consider their family to be people in their lives who are not even related to them; they define family based on factors such as loyalty, respect, love, and responsibility.
Indeed, perhaps a better definition of family would include a group of two or more people who share a common goal, similar values, and have a long-term commitment to one another.
To better understand the depth and dynamic behind the meaning of family, and find a better sense of how you define the word for yourself, let’s take a look below at a few of the many ways people define the word ‘family’ including Traditional Nuclear Families, Blended Families, Extended Families, Single Parent Families, Same-sex Parent Families, Childless Families, & the Family you choose.
Traditional (Nuclear) Families
The traditional make up of a family consists of a mother and father, whom are married, raising their biological children in one household. While this is the standard that many refer to when they think of the word ‘family’, the reality is this type of family dynamic is less of a norm nowadays; especially as divorce rates are rising.
Blended families are when each parent has children from a previous relationship and both spouses’ children are now being raised in the same household. With the number of blended families in North America growing each year, more and more children are growing up with stepsiblings and stepparents making up their family.
Some people go beyond their household when they think of family. They think of their extended family, including aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins. Some children grow up very close to extended family members, some are raised by their extended family, and some families are not close with their extended family at all.
Single Parent Family
As the name suggests, this very common type of family is where either the mother or father along with the child care the key makeup of the family. While the single parent family has become increasingly more common in Western culture, it is one of the more significant changes society has seen in terms of the ‘types’ family in the last few decades. Single families are often close, as they must work together to solve problems, and these issues can be unique due to the fact that often the mother or father is the sole provider along with childcare duties.
Same Sex Parent Families
While some segments of society may struggles to accept same-sex (gay) parenting, this hasn’t stopped same-sex parents from moving forward and starting successful families. In fact, some research indicates that gay parents – in some areas – may even be more successful than straight parents. These studies went on to conclude that Children raised in gay parent households show no significant differences in their achievements, social function, or mental health. Additionally, they tend to be more open-minded, demonstrate enhanced levels of tolerance, and may even have a better understanding of equitable, healthy relationships.
The childless family is simply a group of people from varying backgrounds who – for whatever reason – have never had children and express no desire to have kids. Many may have wrestled with the concept of starting a family, but concluded that it simply wasn’t right for them regardless of any standard family definition. While the reasons for this vary from emotional to more practical in nature, Many childless families choose not to have children as they wish to focus on advancement in their careers, travel, or more time with their friends / spouses. Often times, childless families may opt for pets instead.
The Family You Choose
In a totally different direction, family doesn’t always have to be biological, or by marriage. Many people consider their close friends as family members, because they care for them as they care about their own family. Others may consider coworkers, community members, or other group members they are affiliated with to be an extension of their family. Family can be whomever you choose to call family, whether you are related or not.
There’s No Such Thing As “Normal”
Now more than ever before, it is important for people to understand that when it comes to what is a family, there is no such thing as normal. Every person, every child, every parent, every couple has a unique situation, and to try and define everyone in one black and white term would make no sense.
Family is not defined by biology, or marriage, or even a home. Family is the people you love and who love you back, the people you feel safe around, and the people you can count on to be there when you need them.