How Do You Define Family Essay

Defining ‘Family’


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Hearing the word “family,” it’s quite normal to reminisce of holidays spent traveling in packed cars with one’s siblings and parents, of gift giving and festive meals, of white-haired, cheek-pinching grandmothers, of back-yard barbeques and celebrations. In the traditional sense, “Family” has generally come to refer to this group of people, those who are related by blood or marriage. But the term today actually has several other meanings as well (especially in the American English vernacular) and carries various sociolinguistic implications: the term, for one, applies to people who are as close on a personal level as family, if not more so. “Family” can refer to those who may belong to the same religious or spiritual group or community. Lastly, “Family” also has scientific meanings, one of which refers to a group of objects associated by a significant shared characteristic.


Quite naturally, “family” refers to one’s blood-relatives – such as one’s immediate family: one’s brothers and sisters and parents; and then one’s extended family: one’s grandparents, cousins, nephews, uncles and aunts, et al. But, then again, since the social institution of marriage is constantly evolving, notions of the family are also bound to be changing and having different meanings for everyone. For example, some people’s family may include other people who are not even related to them through marriage or blood or adoption. They may be their most cherished of friends or life companions and even future spouses. Bonds with these kinds of family members are sometimes stronger than the ones shared by siblings. Because society should not decide who exactly one is allowed to consider family, it should be accepted and even encouraged for people to consider their best friends and companions as family, even if they’re not related through blood or marriage.



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Secondly, while “family” most certainly refers to one’s immediate family, the term can also include all the descendants of a common ancestor. And since many religions, such as Christianity and Islam, consider themselves and others the children of God or Allah, believers of those religions are believed to be familial to others who practice the same faith. Also, “family” can refer to those who belong to the same, immediate faith-based community, if they attend the same local church, synagogue, or mosque. People who are part of these communities do spend a great deal of time together, attend many of the same events and ceremonies, and consider themselves part of their “Christian” or “Islamic” family.


And, finally, although “family” does suggest a group of people united by blood or marriage, it can also refer to a group of animals, or any group of objects, with a similar characteristic. For example, a fox is a carnivorous mammal of the dog family, with its pointed muzzle and bushy tail. The common characteristic in this example is the fox being part of a species of animal – the dog family – because it shares similar physical traits, DNA and even similar habits of survival with the dog. In such a scientifically and technologically developed society, most people would be able to understand the context of “family” used as a way that indicates a group with a shared feature or attribute.


In conclusion, people in the 21st century, as a whole, see, understand and use the word “family” in different ways. So a person should not be caught off-guard if another refers to their life companion or best friend as family, or if by “family,” a person means the people who attend their local church; and, once again, a person who says that a certain flower or group of flowers belong to the “rose family,” most people will understand the context of “family.” And since the social institution of family is changing, one may inquire if the change is detrimental or beneficial, though it is a question that is quite subjective in nature.

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Our ever-changing environment has impacted everything that it has even resulted to people having their own definition of words such as the word “family”. People now make their own definition of the said word based on their own personal and domestic experiences and circumstances. Gone are the old days of having one specific formal definition for the word “family” where it was also universally applied. The word family before was simply defined as a social unit “consists of a male wage earner, a non-working wife, and kids” (Lewin).

It was considered as the simplest form of social organization where each member occupies a position, like being a father or mother to one’s children, husband or wife, the eldest or the youngest child. However, today there is more to the said definition. A family is defined as not only inclusive of the presence of a father or a mother with children but could also be any two or more persons living together regardless of sex orientation and preference but have commitment with each other, share the same values, and pursue the same goals.

This definition may not have a legal standing in our society but various social groups asserted for its acceptance. These social groups would like to liberate the definition of the word family to pave the way for society’s acceptance as well as legal recognition especially for those who are involved in homosexual partnership where a relationship anchored on a long and deep commitment between partners was already established yet are not legally recognized. I still recognize family as a social unit but I hold a deeper meaning for it.

For me a family is one that molds the character and personality of its member and in his contribution to the society. It is the building block of any society. The strength and durability of any society stems from the cohesiveness of this social unit called a family. As such I viewed family as the main link between the individual and the society. This is where the person or the child first gains experiences in love, affection, kindness, sympathy, and the like. The child gets oriented into the culture of the group, its norms, goals and types of consensus and sanctions.

Indeed, the family is that social unit which has a pervasive influence on the individual’s behavior, even up to adulthood. It acts as the social laboratory which prepares the child for life in the bigger society, and that it is the family which is the first, the closest, and the most influential social group in the child’s life. Also, a family being a social system makes each member, from the youngest to the oldest, regardless of other personal circumstances essential to the working of the said system.

Further, a family is one that provides a child with a fertile ground to build a solid foundation of who he will become in the future. It prepares the child to the outside world and also to the next life cycle. A family is something that is always there for its member no matter what and no matter when. Indeed, a healthy family may not necessarily have a father or a mother or both but it can bring people out of themselves as they recognize others. They heal, bind, and foster intimacy.

They bring the sense of belonging, of feeling worthwhile, and develop a sense of individuality. Members of the family realize their unique dignity. These virtues are often overlooked in families, or are considered secondary or only expressed to friends, when they truly are the foundation of a healthy, functioning family. Reference List Lewin, Tamara. Suit Over Death Benefits Asks, What is a Family? Retrieved March 10, 2007 from http://www. cs. cmu. edu/afs/cs. cmu. edu/user/scotts/domestic-partners/family. html.


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