What is the family?
The Office for National Statistics define the family as: “a family is a married, civil partnered or cohabiting couple with or without children, or a lone parent with at least one child. Children may be dependent or non-dependent” (2011) – this is also known as a kinship group.
A kinship means being related by birth or blood. However families are formed by non-kinship relationships (adoption) such as foster children, step-children etc.
It’s important to appreciate the family unit is found in some form or another in all known societies because it plays a key role in socialising children into the culture of the society they live in.
Figure 1 below shows that the most common family type in the UK in both 1996 and 2012 was a married or civil partner couple family without dependent children. There were 7.6 million such families in 2012, an increase of over 200,000 since 1996.
The next most common family type was a married or civil partner couple family with dependent children, of which there were 4.6 million in 2012.
This was the only family type to decrease in number since 1996. However, despite an increase in cohabiting couple families and lone parent families over the last decade, married couple families are still the most common family type in the UK, both with and without dependent children.
Listed below are the varieties of structures families are found in:
Beanpole – in countries like Britain and the US, the number of children per generation has steadily gone down, while life span has increased. This has led to a shape of family tree that some researchers have likened to a beanpole — tall and thin, with few people in each generation.
Classic extended family – an extended family sharing the same household
Cohabitation – a couple living together who aren’t married
Extended family – a family containing relatives in addition to the nuclear family
Gay or lesbian family – same sex couple living together with children or without...