Family , Definition(s) of

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“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” (United Nations, 1948). “Society’s definition of ‘family’ is rapidly expanding and has come to include single parents, biracial couples, blended families, unrelated individuals living cooperatively, and homosexual couples, among others. Unfortunately, family policy has been slow to catch up to changing trends in modern lifestyles” (Crawford, 1999, p. 271).

“Ultimately, I define ‘family’ as the smallest, organized, durable network of kin and non-kin who interact daily, providing domestic needs of children and assuring their survival” (Stack, 1996, p. 31).

“…an employee’s spouse and dependent, unmarried children under age 19 (age 23 or 25 if a full-time student and dependent upon the employee for support)” (Abbott, 2002, p. 3).

“Society’s definition of a family has expanded to include ‘single parents, biracial couples, blended families, unrelated individuals living cooperatively, and homosexual couples, among others’” (Crawford, 1999; Kenyon et al., 2003, p. 571).

“Most uses of the word family in research indicate that it was often defined as ‘spouse and children’ or ‘kin in the household’. Thus ‘family’ as defined in economics, sociology, and psychology often was a combination of the notions of household and kin… An exception to this standard definition of family is in clinical and counseling psychology, where family includes one’s family of origin (parents and siblings) in addition to spouse and children” (Patterson, 1996; Rothausen, 1999, p. 818).

“There are diverse types of families, many of which include people related by marriage or biology, or adoption, as well as people related through affection, obligation, dependence, or cooperation (Rothausen, 1999, p. 820).”

“We define family as any group of people related either biologically, emotionally, or legally. That is, the group of people that the patient defines as significant for his or her well-being” (McDaniel et al., 2005, p. 2).

“A family consists of two or more people, one of whom is the householder, related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing in the same housing unit. A household consists of all people who occupy a housing unit regardless of relationship. A household may consist of a person living alone or multiple unrelated individuals or families living together” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005).

“…the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) adopted the definition of a ‘network of mutual commitment’ to connote the new structures that are the reality of families in the 1990s” (Pequengnat & Bray, 1997, p. 3).

Glossary Source: 

United Nations (1948). Universal declaration of human rights. Retrieved July 11, 2005, from http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html

Crawford, J.M. (1999). Co-parent adoptions by same-sex couples: From loophole to law. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Human Services, 80, 271-278.

Stack, C.B. (1996). All our kin. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Abbott, R.K. (2002, March 21). The changing definition of family. Compensation & Benefits Report, 16(6), 3-4.

Kenyon, G.L., Chong, K., Enkoff-Sage, M., Hill, C., Mays, C., & Rochelle, L. (2003). Public adoption by gay and lesbian parents in North Carolina: Policy and practice. Family in Society, 84(4), 571-575.

Rothausen, T.J. (1999). ‘Family’ in organizational research: A review and comparison of definitions and measures. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 20, 817-836.

Patterson, J.M. (1996). Family research methods. In C.A. Heflinger & C.T. Nixon (Eds.), Families and the mental health system for children and adolescents (pp. 117-144). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

McDaniel, S.H., Cambell, T.L., Hepworth, J., & Lorenz, A. (2005). Family-oriented primary care (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer.

U.S. Census Bureau (2005). Question and answer center. Retrieved July 7, 2005, from https://ask.census.gov/app/answers/list

Pequegnat, W., & Bray, J.H. (1997). Families and HIV/AIDS: Introduction to the special section. Journal of Family Psychology, 11(1), 3-10.