Family: Characteristics & types

  • A family, is a group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption, constituting a single household and interacting with each other in their respective social positions, usually those of spouses, parents, children, and siblings.
  • The family group should be distinguished from a household, which may include boarders and roomers sharing a common residence.
  • It should also be differentiated from a kindred (which also concerns bloodlines), because a kindred may be divided into several households.
  • Frequently the family is not differentiated from the marriage pair, but the essence of the family group is the parent-child relationship, which may be absent from many marriage pairs.
  • In some way or the other the family is a universal group. It exists in tribal, rural, and urban communities and among the followers of all religions and cultures. It provides the most enduring relationship in one form or another.

Characteristics of Family

  • Family is a basic, definite, and enduring group.
  • Family is formed by the relatively durable companionship of husband and wife who procreate children. • Family may be limited to the husband, wife, or only the father and his children or only the mother and her children.
  • Family is generally smaller in size companies to other social groups, organizations, and associations.
  • Family can also be large in size in which persons belonging to several generations may live together.

Types of family

On the basis of marriage:

  • Polygamous families may be described as families in which either spouse is allowed to have more than one spouse simultaneously.
  • Monogamous families are those families in which the marriage is limited to one spouse.

On the basis of residence:

  • Patrilocal family: The family in which after marriage the wife comes to reside in the family of her husband is known as the patrilocal family. The patrilocal family is also patriarchal and patrilineal in nature.
  • Matrilocal family: The family in which after marriage husband comes to reside in the family of her wife is known as a matrilocal family. It is just the opposite of a patrilocal family. This type of family is also Matriarchal and Matrilineal in nature.
  • Bilocal family: In this type of family after marriage, the married couple changes their residence alternatively. Sometimes wife joins in her husband’s house while at some other times, the husband resides in the wife’s house. That is why this type of family is also known as a family of changing residence.
  • Neolocal family: After marriage when a newly married couple establishes a new family independent of their parents and settled in a new place this type of family is known as neo- a local family.

On the basis of size and structure:

  • Nuclear Family: A nuclear family is a family which consists of a husband, wife, and their unmarried children. The size of the nuclear family is very small. It is an autonomous unit. There is no control of the elders because newlyweds create a separate residence for themselves which is independent of the elders. It is also known as the primary family.
  • Joint or Extended Family: It includes members of three to four generations. It is an extension of the parent-child relationship. This family is based on close blood ties. It is like the joint family of Hindu Society.
    • The eldest male member is the head of the family. It is characterized by common residence, common kitchen, commensality, sharing of property, the performance of ritual bonds, reciprocal obligations, and sentiments.
    • The extended family consists of a father, mother, sons and their wives, unmarried daughters, grandchildren, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, their children, and so on. This type of family is found to exist in rural communities or agrarian economies.

On the basis of authority

  • Patriarchal Family: The family in which all the power remains in the hands of the patriarch or father is known as a patriarchal family. In other words in this type of family power or authority is vested in the hands of the eldest male member of the family who is supposed to be the father.
    • He exercises absolute power or authority over the other members of the family. He owns the family property.
    • After his death authority transferred to the eldest son of the family.
    • In such a family, the descent is known through the father line means sons and daughters (till the marriage) get the surname of their father like the surname of the children of Rajiv Gandhi will be Gandhi and the surname of the daughter will change after her marriage as per surname of her husband like Priyanka Gandhi became Priyanka Wadra because after marriage wife adopt the surname of the husband.
    • In this type of family wife after marriage come to reside in her husband’s house. The joint family system among the Hindus is a fine example of a patriarchal family.
  • Matriarchal family: This type of family is just the opposite of a patriarchal family. In this family power or authority rests on the eldest female member of the family, especially the wife or mother. She enjoys absolute power or authority over other members of the family. She owns all the family property. In this family, the descent is known through the mother. Headship is transferred from the mother to the eldest daughter. The husband remains the extended subordinate to his wife in a matriarchal family. This type of family is found among the Garo and Khasi tribes.

On the basis of descent:

  • Patrilineal family: The family in which descent or ancestry is determined through the father line and continues through the father it is known as the patrilineal family. The property and family name are also inherited through the father line. The patrilineal family is generally patrilocal and patriarchal in nature.
  • Matrilineal family: Matrilineal family is just the opposite of the patrilineal family. A family in which descent is determined through the mother line or continues through the mother is known as a Matrilineal family. The property and family name are also inherited through the mother line. This right transferred from mother to daughter. A woman is the ancestor of the family. Generally, the Matrilineal family is Matrilocal and Matriarchal in nature. This type of family can be found in the tribal communities of Garos and Khasis.
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