Family

Topic: Social Institutions

Family is a social institution as it consist of bonds of kin and marriage.

Families consist of bonds of kin and marriage and make up a major organizing institution of society. Kinship describes the social bonds that unite individuals into families.

There are three main forms of kinship: bloodline, marriage, and adoption. In most societies, the institution of family creates a social group in which to procreate, rear children, pass on cultural knowledge, and cooperate to better meet life’s challenges. In the United States’ recent history, the most common concept of family has been one man and one woman living together with their children. This structure is known as the nuclear family. However, other groups of related individuals or families are possible.

Diversity in family forms can manifest in many ways. Two heterosexual parents might be considered a traditional form, but there has always been diversity in family structure, including one-parent families, couples that have no children, and gay and lesbian families. In many places, multiple generations of a family will dwell together in an extended family model. Other family types include polygyny (more than one woman married to a man) and polyandry (more than one man married to a woman). The term polygamy encompasses both of these possibilities. American ideas about family are shifting. Rising rates of divorce, blended families, single-parenting, unmarried cohabitation, and same-sex marriage are leading to a more inclusive idea of what constitutes a family.

When families are a source of financial and emotional support for many people, for the family can be dangerous. Violence in the family comes in many forms and includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. Victims of violence are usually non-dominant members of the family such as elders, females, or children. It is important to remember that males can be victims of domestic violence. Victims may find it difficult to leave their abusers due to dependence on the family for resources. The risk of family violence increases with some types of substance abuse, particularly alcohol.


Key Points

• Family is a major organizing institution of society as it consists of bonds of kin and marriage.

• There are three main forms of kinship: bloodline, marriage, and adoption.

• In most societies, the institution of family creates a social group in which to procreate, rear children, pass on cultural knowledge, and cooperate to better meet life’s challenges.

• Diversity in family forms can manifest in many ways including a traditional form (two heterosexual parents), one-parent families, couples without children, gay and lesbian families, polygyny (more than one woman married to a man), polyandry (more than one man married to a woman), etc.

• Violence in the family comes in many forms and includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse as well as child, elder, and spousal abuse.


Key Terms

family: a social institution as it consists of bonds of kin and marriage.

kinship: the social bonds that unite individuals into families

three main forms of kinship: bloodline, marriage, and adoption

nuclear family: one man and one woman living together with their children

polygyny: more than one woman married to a man

polyandry: more than one man married to a woman

marriage: a socially, religiously, or governmentally approved interpersonal relationship. Marriage is a permanent, contractual agreement and includes rights and obligations that are unique and specific.

divorce: the legal dissolution of a marriage by a court or other competent body

violence in the family: abuse can occur to anyone, any age, any gender, and can be both physical and emotional.



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