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The Family Unit

A family can be defined as a group of one or more parents and their children who live together as one unit. Socially the family can be defined as a group of people of common ancestry (Haefner, 2014). The family is socially viewed as a group of persons united by the ties of blood, marriage, and adoption who constitute a single household and interact with each other in their respective social positions. These positions are usually spouses, parents, children, and siblings. At its most basic, the family should consist of two adults with their children (Vieira, Gomes, Barba, & Costa, 2013). The most common type across all modern societies is the nuclear family, which only consists of a man, woman, and children. In some societies, the family will consist of a man, a woman, and their children, where these children can still have their children while at their parents’ and hence the extended family. However, different people and societies define the family based on variables, including their cultural values and beliefs. For example, in most Asian families, the family is extended in nature, their structure and how they organize themselves within the family unit, the roles played by each member within the family unit, ancestry, and also the type of residence. Therefore, analysis of different family bases will enhance more understanding of the study and provide adequate information on how families are created and developed.

There are five bases on which we categorize the family: based on a structure where we have the nuclear family and the extended family, and based on authority where we have the patriarchal and the matriarchal. Based on marriage, where we have monogamous, polygamous, and based on ancestry, we have the matrilineal and the patrilineal (Ember, 2021).

The family as a unit plays a very key role in society, which is very fundamental in the lives of human beings. To start with, the family has the duty to sexual life and behavior. In this case, the family must teach and reiterate that some conditions and people are more important for sexual intimacy and affection than others. For example, the family must teach the children against homosexuality and fornication, a taboo in most societies. In most societies, the control of sexual behavior covers more than coitus but behaviors such as kissing, hugging, and touching. These socially set regulations largely determine the families’ reactions and cultural prescriptions on various premarital relationships.

The family is also the socially legalized unit for bearing and rearing children in our societies. Rearing and bearing children within the family unit earn more societal approval than doing it outside the family unit. Socially the family is the institution that has been sanctioned to produce children and rear them. This leads to the continuation of the human race. When a child is born outside the family, in most cases is stigmatized and seen not as Part and parcel of the whole group. The family also acts as a stable unit of sexual satisfaction. Sex is considered a natural urge of any human being. Therefore the family must bring sexual satisfaction to its members most acceptably and desirably to certify its unit.

The family also plays a key role in providing its members a home and social and financial protection. In this case, the family provides a conducive environment for producing and rearing children. Since ancient times, the family has been performing several economic functions; it has been the most important production and consumption unit. In the early days, the male gender was responsible for producing property and providing food, while the female gender was responsible for performing other small household duties. Nowadays, these production duties are being performed by other institutions separate from the family, and the family has been left mainly as a consumption unit. Examples of such institutions are the current business institution, learning institutions, etc.

The family also plays a key role in educating its members on various aspects of life, most importantly the children. The family acts as the primary educational unit providing basic informal education to the children by teaching various skills like how to communicate, farm, and relate with people (Chadda, & Deb, 2013). This basic knowledge hugely determines the type of child the family produces the society at the end of the day. The mothers in a family unit act as the child’s primary teacher, where he sources all sorts of basic informal education like discipline, manners, and obedience. The family also acts as the center of all religious activities in society. When children are born, they are quickly incorporated into the family’s religious beliefs. In this case, the religious beliefs and traditions are occasionally transmitted from one generation to another.

In modern societies, various emerging issues surround the family. They include the emergence of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families in societies that were not the case in traditional families (Hull, & Ortyl, 2019). Also, the issue of single parenthood is on the rise. These families comprise the caregiver and children without the partner spouse. It may occur due to various reasons, including the partner’s death, etc. The traditional family was different, with no or few cases of single parenthood. Cases of family separation were minimal, and in the case of the death of a partner, the other partner remarried.

Nowadays, the roles associated with men are being played by women and vice versa. Before modernization, society had roles prescribed to men and roles that were associated with women. Roles like cooking and washing were entirely associated with women. Men were responsible for enhancing family security and provision to ensure vital resources such as food, housing, and development were achieved in the family. Due to changes in our societies, there is a notable change in the gender associated with the capitalist nature of our societies.

Apparently, in our societies today, there is a notable increase in neo-local families compared to ancient families. Neo-local families occur when newly married couples move to a new location or place away from their natal household. In traditional times, after marriage, families usually settled on the family of the man. Still, many families are settling on a neo-local family set up to avoid conflicts with the parent family.

Despite the family playing a key role in the continuity of society, there have been various challenges facing the family unit. First, the family unit faces some communication failure which in most cases leads to its breakdown (O’Brien, 2020). Good and smooth communication is essential for effective parenthood, and the links between the family unit collapse if it fails.

Divorce is a challenge facing the family unit (Nisa, 2021). The divorce rate in modern families is higher than the traditional families resulting in single parenthood. These family challenges are distressing to all the members of the family. In some cases, after divorce, people choose to remarry to complete the family unit, but this poses another challenge if children are involved. Role-taking and balancing work in the family unit is also a challenge affecting the family unit Moreso, the modern family. There is always a conflict between role taking and who is to do a particular role.

In conclusion, the family is a sacred entity mainly for producing and rearing children. It is the first blessing, and that’s where we come from. A good family should be built on good moral values and team effort. As discussed, the family has different bases which enhance the development of patriarchal and matriarchal, which play vital roles in the society from stimulation of sexual education to the children till they grow up. The role of bearing and rearing children is a social role of the family, which has to be accompanied by the cultural aspect of the family. In the social aspect, the family enhances the home’s security by providing resources such as finances, food, and education. However, with the changing society, the family unit is experiencing changes in sexual behavior, gender role, and the emergency of neo-local families. Also, issues like poor communication and divorce are surging, affecting the traditional form of the family unit. Therefore, it is critical to ensure the changing society, with impacts from advances in technology and other industrial development, does not impact the way of the family unit from the traditional perspective.


Chadda, R. K., & Deb, K. S. (2013). Indian family systems, collectivistic society and psychotherapy. Indian journal of psychiatry55(Suppl 2), S299.

Edwards, J. G., Feldman, G., Goldberg, J., Gregg, A. R., Norton, M. E., Rose, N. C., … & Watson, M. S. (2015). Expanded carrier screening in reproductive medicine—points to consider: a joint statement of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Society of Genetic Counselors, Perinatal Quality Foundation, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Obstetrics & Gynecology125(3), 653-662.

Ember, C. R. (2021). Marriage and Family.

Haefner, J. (2014). An application of Bowen family systems theory. Issues in mental health nursing35(11), 835-841.

Hull, K. E., & Ortyl, T. A. (2019). Conventional and cutting-edge: Definitions of family in LGBT communities. Sexuality Research and Social Policy16(1), 31-43.

Nisa, M. P. (2021). Critical Review of Domestic Violence as Reason for Divorce (Comparison of Divorce Laws in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Maldives). AL-IHKAM: Jurnal Hukum & Pranata Sosial16(1), 1-23.

O’Brien, E. R. (2020). Counseling Women Facing Contemporary Family Challenges. Counseling the Contemporary Woman: Strategies and Interventions Across the Lifespan, 179.

Vieira, K. L. D., Gomes, V. L. D. O., Borba, M. R., & Costa, C. F. D. S. (2013). Health care for male population in basic unit of family health: reasons for (not) attendance. Escola Anna Nery17(1), 120-127.


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