Changing Definitions of Families

Standard North American family, Definition(s) of

“It is a conception of the family as a legally married couple sharing a household. The adult male is in paid employment; his earnings provide the economic basis of the family-household. The adult female may also earn an income, but her primary responsibility is to the care of the husband, household, and children.  Adult male and female may be parents (in whatever legal sense) of children also resident in the household” (Smith, 1993, p. 52).

Glossary Source: 

Smith, D.E.  (1993). The standard North American family: SNAF as an ideological code.  Journal of Family Issues, 14(1), 50-65.

Blended Family, Definition(s) of

“1. A family that is formed when separate families are united by marriage or other circumstance; a stepfamily. 2. Various kinship or nonkinship groups whose members reside together and assume traditional family roles” (Barker, 2003, p. 46).

“…has a role structure in which at least one parent has been previously married and which includes children from one or both of these marriages” (Johnson, 2000, p. 119).

Glossary Source: 

Barker, R.L. (2003). The social work dictionary (5th ed.). Washington, DC: NASW Press.

Johnson, A.G. (2000). The Blackwell dictionary of sociology (2nd ed.). Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc.

Nuclear Family, Definition(s) of

Strictly, a nuclear or elementary or conjugal family consists merely of parents and children, though it often includes one or two other relatives as well, for example, a widowed parent or unmarried sibling of one or other spouse” (Parkin, 1997, p. 28).

Glossary Source: 

Parkin, R. (1997) Kinship: An introduction to basic concepts.Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Stem Family, Definition(s) of

“A stem family links the nuclear family of one married child with his or her natal family” (Parkin, 1997, p. 28).

Glossary Source: 

Parkin, R. (1997) Kinship: An introduction to basic concepts. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Beanpole Family, Definition(s) of

"Long and thin in form as older generations live longer and affinal ties are weakened by divorce in the middle and younger generations" (Brannen & Nilsen).

"Vertical relationships within families have become more important especially in recent years in Britain, due both to increased possibilities and to greater necessity" (Brannen, Moss, & Mooney 2004).

Glossary Source: 

As defined by Brannen & Nilsen citing Bengston in Adulthood: Changing Concepts and Definitions entry. 

Brannen, J., Moss, P., & Mooney, A. (2004). Working and caring in the twentieth century: Change and continuity in our generation families. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

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