The Difficulties in Defining the Family

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The Difficulties in Defining the Family

The Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of 'family' as 'parents and

their children, sometimes including grandchildren and other


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. This would imply that homosexuality is becoming

acceptable not only by the general public - the majority of which no

longer view homosexuality as unusual - but also by the church. It is

also legal in certain parts of the world for gay couples to adopt

children, which is an important commitment and requires trust on the

part of the adoption agency. Therefore it would be safe to say that a

family does not have to be limited to two adults of opposite sexes.

There have been deviations on the subject of a family containing one

wife and one husband, as it is common in some cultures for there to be

Polygamy - meaning that the re...

... middle of paper ... 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.

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