Topic: Family

B.Sc in nursing 1st year

Subject: Sociology

What is Family?

In our contemporary Western society, a family is a socially recognizable group. One obvious sign of a family is that of a common residence, housing “two or more persons related by birth, marriage, or adoption, who reside together” (U.S. Bureau of the Census definition).  In addition, there is usually a long term commitment of the man and the woman, a joint economic goal, other shared goals and values, a socially approved relationship, and natural and/or adopted children.

The family is the primary unit of all society. It is a group of biological related individual living together and eating from a common kitchen. The tem family differs from house hold in that all the members of a house hold may not blood relations example- servant.

As a biological unit family share a pool of genes.

As a social unit family members share a physical and social environment.

As a cultural unit family member share the culture of the society


  1. Family may be defined as a group of biologically related people living together who are related by kinship or similar close ties and the adults are responsible for the take care and upbringing their natural and adopted child.
  2. According to Eliott and Merill- The family is the biological social unit composed of husband wife and children.
  3. According to MacIver- Family a group defined by sex relationship sufficiently precise and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.

The basic models of nuclear family are as follows:

(Phases of family life cycle):

Description Beginning of phase End of phase
Formation marriage Birth of 1st child
Extension Birth of 1st child Birth of last child.
Complete extension Birth of last child 1st child leaves home
Contraction 1st child leaves home Last child leaves home of parents
Complete contraction Last child has left home of parents 1st spouse dies.
Dissolution 1st spouse dies Death of survivor (Extinction)

The classifications of family are as follows:

According to marriage:

  1. Monogamy– composed of one husband and one wife.
  2. Poly gamy-Composed of more than several husbands and several wife’s.
  3. Polygeny- Composed of one husband and several wifes.
  4. Polyandry- Composed of one wife and several husbands (rare in our country).

According to birth family are of two types they are-

  1. Family of orientation and.
  2. Family of procreation.

According to nature of residence:

  1. Patrical- In which after marriage women comes to live in the husband’s family.
  2. Metrical-In which the women are oriented to his family and the husbands after marriage joints her in the family.

On the basis of number of couple:

  1. Nuclear family- This type of family is universal of all human societies. It consists of father mother and their children living in the single dwelling unit where the head of the family the head of the house hold.
  2. Joint family- this type of family are common in Bangladesh .It consists of number of married couple and their children who live together in the same household and are bond by blood related.
  3. The three generation family- It occurs usually when young couples are unable to find separate housing accommodation and continue to live with their parents and have their own children.

The basic needs of the family are as followings:


  1. Food, shelter, clothing safe physical environments(eg-safe water disposable of wastes etc).


  1. Freedom from communicable diseases.
  2. Control of insects and vectors.
  3. Control of rodents.
  4. Planned Parenthood.


  1. A happy home.
  2. A safe working environment.
  3. Freedom from poverty.
  4. Adequate mental care.
  5. Care of special groups-mother children, aged, handicapped,
  6. Social security.

The main functions of family are as followings:

  1. Socialization of children.
  2. Families provide economic cooperation and division of labor.
  3. Care supervision monitoring and interaction.
  4. Legitimizing /fulfillment of sexual relations.
  5. Reproduction of child.
  6. Provision of status-
  7. Ascribed status-Birth order.
  8. Achieved status-Based on individuals effort.
  9. Social –familial attributes.
  10. Affection emotional support and companionship.
  11. Regulation of sex and reproduction.

The main characteristics of family are as follows:

Universality: There is no human society in which some form of the family does not appear.Malinowski writes the typical family a group consisting of mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities,savage,barbarians and civilized. The irresistible sex need, the urge for reproduction and the common economic needs have contributed to this universality.

Emotional basis: The family is grounded in emotions and sentiments. It is based on our impulses of mating, procreation, maternal devotion, fraternal love and parental care. It is built upon sentiments of love, affection, sympathy, cooperation and friendship.

Limited size: The family is smaller in size. As a primary group its size is necessarily limited. It is a smallest social unit.

Formative influence: The family welds an environment which surrounds trains and educates child. It shapes the personality and moulds the character of its members. It emotionally conditions the child.

Nuclear position in the social structure: The family is the nucleus of all other social organizations. The whole social structure is built of family units.

Responsibility of the members: The members of the family has certain responsibilities, duties and obligations. Maclver points out that in times of crisis men may work and fight and die for their country but they toil for their families all their lives.

Social regulation: The family is guarded both by social taboos and by legal regulations. The society takes precaution to safeguard this organization from any possible breakdown.