A family is a basic social group which is present in all societies. An ideal family provides its members with friendship, companionship, and security. The structure of a family and the needs that it fulfills can vary between societies. There are three basic family units. The most common one is a nuclear family. This unit consists of two parents and their children. Either this or an extended family can be the main unit. An extended family includes grandparents and such. The third possible unit is a single-parent family. This can usually be seen due to a divorce, the death of a parent, or having only one parent to begin with.
The main function of a family is to provide love and emotional support between its members. This is very important, especially to infants and young children. Many of the functions once performed by the family such as education and recreation are now performed by outside influences and institutions.
Here are some of the things that are usually separate from the family unit. The most common activity separate from family groups is work. People don’t work in their families but away from home in different locations and occupations. This of course excludes chores which fall under household work that is usually equally distributed among family members. Education is also not provided at home unless the children are home-schooled. It is provided by public or private institutions where children from many different families attend. Though recreational activities and religion still play a role in family life, they can also be available outside home. Even the socialization of children, one of the main family functions, has been influenced by the mass media and life outside of the house.
The prototypical nuclear family has undergone many changes over the past century. Now, we can come across a one-parent family, a stepfamily, and a childless family. One-parent families are cause by the death of a spouse, or more commonly, divorce, or when unmarried mothers have children. Stepfamilies form through the new marriage of a single parent. In these families, tension can be formed between biological parents and their children. It can be a strain on the children to accept another person as a parent, and to live with that person’s children as siblings. Childless families may have appeared due to the availability of birth control. Of course, it can also be because couples simply do not want to have children, or they postpone having them until they have good positions in life. A childless family could also be the result of sterility, in which case children can be adopted or artificially created.
Different types of family units have also appeared. One such unit is an unmarried couple living together. This may result in a desire to become established and used to each other before marrying, if they want to marry at all. Living together without being in wedlock can be economically practical, especially for elderly couples which may be widowed. Homosexual couples can also be seen as a new family unit. Such couples may live together alone, or with the children of one or both partners. The children can also be adopted, foster children, or artificially created. A family unit that was common in the 1960’s but has now diminished in popularity is the communal family. A communal family is made up of groups of related or unrelated people.
There are many modern family trends occurring in the whole world that can be problematic. One such trend is that of young, unwed mothers. These mothers are unable to support their children and themselves and thus the state must pay them welfare. However, increased methods of birth control and legalized abortions have slowed this trend a bit.
Something that threatens the family system is unchecked population growth. The reduction of infant mortality has posed a challenge to the nuclear family, as in it may not be able to support so many children. This also challenges the resources of developing nations, as well as the capacity of the world.