Definition of Family- Family is a durable association of man and woman along with or without children. They live together, pull their resources, work together and produce off springs.
Family as an Institution – Family is most important and pivotal institution among all the institutions of the societies. The main feature of the family is the person composed of family is related to each other by blood, marriage and adoption.
Sociologist George Murdock lists four important function of family.
i) regulate sexual relations;
ii) account for economic survival ;
iii) controls reproduction; and
iv) socialises children
Variations in Family Forms
By the Residence –
Patrilocal – Family takes up residence in husband’s home.
Matrilocal- Family takes up residence in wife’s home.
By the Issue of descent –
Patrilineal – The descent is traced through the male line.
Matrilineal- The descent is traced through the female line.
By the decision making authority- These are patriarchy-male dominant; matriarchy-female dominant
Yet another distinction is made between the conjugal family or family by marriage on the one hand and consanguine family or family by blood on the other, based on the membership type of the family. While the conjugal family consists of parents and their children, the consanguine family is made up of either parent and the units' blood relatives, such as, mother, her children, her parents or father, his children, his parents etc.
The nuclear family consists of a married couple and their children.
The extended family is commonly defined as the nuclear family plus all kin belonging
to either side, living together.
Universal Nature of Family - The family is tlie most permanent and pervasive of all social institutions.
There is no human society without any family system. All societies both large and small, primitive and civilised, ancient and modern, have institutionalised the process of procreation of the species and the rearing of the young. It is a permanent and universal institution and one of the constants of human life.
Biological Basis of the Family – The sexual character of reproduction which is the natural answer to the sexual drive of the human to which the family gives the legitimacy with the support of marriage.
Common Residence and Nomenclature – The family provides a common place of residence for its members which is very important for the bearing and rearing of the child. The family in which person is child is called family of orientation and the family in which the person is parent is called family of procreation.
Social Functions of the Family –
i) Member replacement and physical maintenance
In order to survive, every society must replace members who die and keep the survivors
ii) Regulation of sexual behaviour
iii) Socialisation of children
The family carries out the serious responsibility of socialising each child. Children are
taught largely by their families to conform to socially approved patterns of behaviour.
iv) Status transmission
Individual's social ibentity is initially fixed by family membership by being born to parents of a given status and characteristics. Children take on the socio-economic class standing of their parents and the culture of the class into which they are born, including its values, behaviour patterns and definitions of reality. In addition to internalising family attitudes and beliefs, children are treated and defined by others as extensions of the social identity of their parents. In short, family acts as a vehicle of culture transmission from generation to generation.
v) Economic activity
vi) Social emotional support
vii) Inter-institutional linkage
Role of Family in Industrial Society
Many sociologists feel that the family has lost a number of its fiinctions in modern industrial society. Institutions such as business, political parties, schools, welfare and recreational organisations, creche and play schools, now specialise in functions earlier performed only by the family. This reduces the dependency ofthe individual on his or her family and kin. The high rate of geographical mobility in industrial society decreases, the frequency and intimacy of contact among members ofthe kin-family network. The relatively high level of social mobility and the importance of 'achieved' status in modem
society have weakened the importance of family and its extended form since it has less
to offer to its members.