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Family a Basic Unit of the Society

The family is considered the basic unit of the society. It is where a person acquires his/her basic characteristics and habits. They say that the personality of an individual is very much affected by the family background. One classical definition is that a family “is a social group characterized 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 or more children, owned or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults” (Murdock, 1949). However, this definition is restricted to some degree since it does not include the diverse ways families are constituted today such as single parenthood, cohabiting arrangements, domestic partnerships of homosexuals, families constituted by second marriages, also known as stepfamilies or blended families, and married couples without children either because of decision to delay or the option not to have any.

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Family with shared resources and responsibilities

Since family members need not be bound my legal marriage or by blood or adoption (Lamanna and Riedman, 1994), a new definition erupted. The family consists of “two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values and goals and have a commitment to each other over time. The functions attributed to families are economic consumption, socialization of the young and affective dimensions” (Davidson and Moore, 1992). This definition can include a variety of family forms, with emphasis on sharing, commitment and affection without any mention of sexual relations.

Family is a unique social institution

In sociological terms, the family is unique among social institutions. Institution is an established pattern of norms and values that organizes social life to fulfill social functions (Broom, 1990). The family is the first to provide life-giving support, to bind the individual to a social group, and to socialize the person for participation outside the primary group. It is the setting for growing up, marriage, child rearing and the individual’s most intense attachments and conflicts.

The interactions within and between the different environments of a family constitute the ecology of the family and are major elements of an ecological point of view. The environment of the family’s ecology comprises the family itself, the family’s informal social network, community professionals and/or organizations and the society as a whole.

An environment may be very helpful and supportive in the development of families or lacking and threatening to development. An example is when a child is about to go out into the world, his/her decisions are affected by his/her peers. Strong associations with other community members and organizations could also help in proper and successful family functioning. The family would be more at ease in their immediate community. However, a community may or may not provide the needs of a family.

The family stands at the center of the social life, linking the individual to school, church, the economy and the nation. It conveys basic norms and values. Therefore, the family was coined as the major building block of the society. Because the family stands at the center of social life, innovations and social change that alter families arouse strong reactions. Many people fear that the family will be unable to adapt to change and that traditional values will break down in the face of the challenges for which the family is not prepared.

Family and the environment

Though the family has its own internal structure, it still exists within a network of relationships with other subsystems and with society as a whole. Families are interdependent on their neighborhood, social environment and physical environment. The changes and developments of a family are influenced by the changes in the community it resides in and its environment. The changes occurring in the family and the changes occurring in the outside environment has major impacts to each other. Therefore, the interaction of the family to the surroundings is a very important factor in continuity of the family. The family has its own needs, for survival, valued and management. These needs could only be attained if there is an interaction with the family’s environment. Environments, however, do not determine human behavior but pose limitations and constraints as well as possibilities and opportunities for families.

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