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Difficulties in defining the family

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Difficulties in defining the family The Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of 'family' as 'parents and their children, sometimes including grandchildren and other relations'. Murdock's definition of the family is: 'The family is a social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one of more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.' While this may have been satisfactory when it was written, changing times and social standards mean that we should reconsider the definition of the family. The numbers of men and women who have declared themselves to be homosexual and participate in gay relationships and sexual activities is growing and because of this we should consider same sex couples as part of a family. In certain states in America (for example San Francisco), same sex couples are permitted to marry in church and it is legally binding. ...read more.


equals in the fields and children consider those they grow up with to be their brothers and sisters, they do not come in contact with their parents as often as most children and don't seem to consider them anymore than close friends. It is obvious that although they have not created a nuclear family, it can still be considered a family. The counterpart to this example is the Nayar communities, where one woman can take one or more husbands, who are often brothers. This provides an economically stable family as in the event of death or illness of one of the husbands, another can take over. It also helps that they are brothers and although they argue, they get on most of the time and there is not as much chance of rivalry between them. The legality of divorce has allowed there to be more single parent families and reconstituted families, and although in some cases it may be harder for a single parent to provide for their children, often the children receive just as much attention and help from the one parent as they would from both. ...read more.


The word 'family' is particularly vague and it could be suggested that there are different types of family, the last example I have given being a 'nuclear family' that has two adults of opposite sexes and one or more children. This is not the only type of family but it would be possible for all my examples so far to be described as different kinds of family. It is clear from the examples I have used that there is no particular definition that can efficiently cover all the types of family I have looked. The definition of a family varies with culture, tradition and how a person looks at their own family. The one common factor seems to be that a family is a social group where the members share responsibility and support each other. They do not have to be related by blood although that is often the case and there is usually an adult in the family. Jo Samways ...read more.

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