Introduction to Concepts of Family

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Introduction to Concepts of Family

The family can be conceptualized in numerous ways; underlying each is a fundamental idea about the structure of the family and its function in society. Some define a family purely in terms of sharing a household, a collection of individuals living together. Others define the family based on kinship. A family is a group of people who share common ancestors or a basic social unit comprised of parents and their children. Some assert that biological kinship is the defining element of family, while opponents assert that families can be a blended collection of individuals related by marriage, adoption, partnership, or friendship.

Social theorists have questioned the nature of family since the ancient times. The modern era has witnessed numerous transformations of prevailing concepts of family in Western society. "Love and the Formations of Family" discusses Sigmund Freud's concept of the family as a comprehensive social unit formed by physical, biological, emotional, and economic necessities. "Myth of the Perfect Family" introduces the cultural myth of the perfect family, then counters the idea with a survey of diverse family structures. "'Blended Families' and Other Euphemisms" provides a personal account of the increasingly common reshaping and melding of families through divorce and remarriage. Also provided herein is demographic information on what contemporary families and households look like in the United States.

How individuals conceptualize the family is influenced by culture, religion, law, and politics. Concepts of family are diverse. Fundamental to understanding varying concepts of family are several essential questions. What makes a family? How are families created and maintained? Who are members of a family? What are the roles of members within the family? What is the role of family in society? How are families essential to society? What social forces have shaped our perceptions of family? From nuclear families to extended families, so-called traditional families to blended families, this chapter presents an overview of the different concepts of family found throughout this volume.

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Introduction to Concepts of Family