Extended family

Last updated

An extended family is a family that extends beyond the nuclear family, consisting of parents like father, mother, and their children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, all living in the same household. Particular forms include the stem and joint families.



In some circumstances, the extended family comes to live either with or in place of a member of the immediate family. These families include, in one household, relatives in addition to an immediate family. An example would be an elderly parent who moves in with his or her children due to old age. In modern Western cultures dominated by immediate family constructs, the term has come to be used generically to refer to grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, whether they live together within the same household or not. [1] However, it may also refer to a family unit in which several generations live together within a single household. In some cultures, the term is used synonymously with consanguineous family.

In a stem family, a type of extended family, first presented by Frédéric Le Play, parents will live with one child and his or her spouse, as well as the children of both, while other children will leave the house or remain in it unmarried. The stem family is sometimes associated with inegalitarian inheritance practices, as in Japan and Korea, but the term has also been used in some contexts to describe a family type where parents live with a married child and his or her spouse and children, but the transfer of land and moveable property is more or less egalitarian, as in the case of traditional Romania, [2] northeastern Thailand [3] or Mesoamerican indigenous peoples. [4] In these cases, the child who cares for the parents usually receives the house in addition to his or her own share of land and moveable property.

In an extended family, parents and their children's families may often live under a single roof. This type of joint family often includes multiple generations in the family. Three to four generations stay together under a single roof. The joint family follow common culture, have equal rights over property and celebrate all the festivals and functions of the family together. They are a coherent group. From culture to culture, the variance of the term may have different meanings. For instance, in India, the family is a patriarchal society, with the sons' families often staying in the same house. The patriarch or the eldest male in the family is known as the Karta. The Karta is the main person and takes all decisions related to the family. Karta provides financial, mental, social etc. security to the family members and so the family members allow the karta to take decisions on their behalf. The family members feel secure in the presence of the karta. The authority of the family is passed on by the law of primogeneture. After the death of the karta, his eldest son becomes the karta and take charge of the family. The joint family in India is very unique. It has various positive and negative aspects. With globalization, increasing urbanization people have become more individualistic and consider family secondary.

In the joint family, the workload is shared among the members. The patriarch of the family (often the oldest male member) is the head of the household. Grandparents are usually involved in the raising process of the children along with guidance and education. Like any family unit, the success and structure are dependent on the personalities of the individuals involved.

Amy Goyer, AARP multigenerational issues expert, said the most common multigenerational household is one with a grandparent as head of the household and his adult children having moved in with their children, an arrangement usually spurred by the needs of one or both to combine resources and save money. The second most popular is a grandparent moving in with an adult child's family, usually for care-giving reasons. She noted that 2.5 million grandparents say they are responsible for the basic needs of the grandchild living with them. [5] [ clarification needed ]

The house often has a large reception area and a common kitchen. Each family has their own bedroom.[ citation needed ] The members of the household also look after each other when a member is ill.


It has often been presumed that extended family groups sharing a single household enjoy certain advantages, such as a greater sense of security and belonging due to sharing a wider pool of members to serve as resources during a crisis, and more role models to help perpetuate desired behavior and cultural values. However, even in cultures in which adults are expected to leave home after marriage to begin their own nuclear-based households, the extended family often forms an important support network offering similar advantages. Particularly in working-class communities, grown children tend to establish their own households within the same general area as their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. These extended family members tend to gather often for family events and to feel responsible for helping and supporting one another, both emotionally and financially. [6]

While contemporary families may be considered more mobile in general than in the past, sociologists find that this has not necessarily resulted in the disintegration of extended family networks. Rather, technological aids such as the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook are now commonly used[ where? ] to retain contact and maintain these family ties. [6]

Particularly in the case of single-parent households, it can be helpful for extended family members to share a single household in order to share the burden of meeting expenses. On the other hand, sharing a household can present a disadvantage depending on the sizes and number of families involved, particularly when only a few members shoulder most of the responsibility to meet expenses for the family's basic needs. [7]

An estimated 49 million Americans (16.1% of the total population) live in homes comprising three or more generations, up from 42 million in 2000. This situation is similar in Western Europe. Another 34 percent live within a kilometer of their children. [8] [9]

Around the world

In many cultures, such as in those of many of the Asians, [10] Catholic countries, [11] Middle Easterners, Africans, Eastern Europeans, Southern Europe, indigenous Latin Americans and Pacific Islanders, extended families are the basic family unit. Even in Western Europe, extended families (mostly of the stem type) were also clearly prevalent, England being a rare exception. [12] Some people have stated that the relative "uniqueness" of the traditional English family (the absolute nuclear family) was at least partly responsible for the birth of industrialization, free-market capitalism and liberalism in that country.

It is common for today's world to have older children in nuclear families to reach walking up to driving age ranges before meeting extended family members. Geographical isolation is common for middle-class families who move based on occupational opportunities while family branches "retain [their] basic independence". [13] Some extended families hold family reunions or opportunities for gathering regularly, normally around holiday time frames, to reestablish and integrate a stronger family connection. This allows individual nuclear families to connect with extended family members.

Australian Aborigines are another group for whom the concept of family extends well beyond the nuclear model. Aboriginal immediate families include aunts, uncles and a number of other relatives who would be considered "distant relations" in the context of the nuclear family. Aboriginal families have strict social rules regarding whom they can marry. Their family structure incorporates a shared responsibility for all tasks.[ citation needed ]

Where families consist of multiple generations living together, the family is usually headed by the oldest man. More often than not, it consists of grandparents, their sons, and their sons' families. Extended families make discussions together and solve the problem.

Indian subcontinent

Historically, for generations South Asia had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system or undivided family. The joint family system is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, consisting of many generations living in the same home, all bound by the common relationship. [14] A patrilineal joint family consists of an older man and his wife, his sons and unmarried daughters, his sons’ wives and children. The family is headed by a patriarch, usually the oldest male, who makes decisions on economic and social matters on behalf of the entire family. The patriarch's wife generally exerts control over the household, minor religious practices and often wields considerable influence in domestic matters. Family income flows into a common pool, from which resources are drawn to meet the needs of all members, which are regulated by the heads of the family. [15]

Recent trend in the United States

In the early stages of the twentieth century, it was not very common to find many families with extended kin in their household, which may have been due to the idea that the young people in these times typically waited to establish themselves and start a household before they married and filled a home.[ citation needed ] As life expectancy becomes older and programs such as Social Security benefit the elderly, the old are now beginning to live longer than prior generations, which then may lead to generations mixing together. [16] According to results of a study by Pew Research Center in 2010, approximately 50 million (nearly one in six) Americans, including rising numbers of seniors, live in households with at least two adult generations, and often three. It has become an ongoing trend for elderly generations to move in and live with their children, as they can give them support and help with everyday living. The main reasons cited for this shift are an increase in unemployment and slumped housing prices and arrival of new immigrants from Asian and South American countries. [17] According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 2.7 million grandparents raising their grandchildren in 2009. [18] The dramatic increase in grandparent-headed households has been attributed to many factors including parental substance abuse. [19] , In 2003, the number of U.S. "family groups" where one or more subfamilies live in a household (e.g. a householder's daughter has a child. The mother-child is a subfamily) was 79 million. Two-point-six million of U.S. multigenerational family households in 2000 had a householder, the householder's children, and the householder's grandchildren. That's 65 percent of multigenerational family households in the U.S. So it is twice as common for a grandparent to be the householder than for adult children to bring parents into their home. [20] The increase in the number of multigenerational households has created complex legal issues, such as who in the household has authority to consent to police searches of the family home or private bedrooms. [21]


Mexican society is composed of three-generational units consisting of grandparents, children, and grandchildren. Further close relationships are maintained with the progenitors of these families and are known as kin or "cousins". When one is born, they are born into two extended families, a kinship group of sometimes 70 people. The group traditionally acts as a cohesive unit, pooling resources and influence. The extended family also consists of spouses and siblings. This is in contrast to the two generational American nuclear family. [22]

Some scholars have used the term "grand-family" to describe the close relationship between grandparents, children, and grandchildren in Mexican society. [23] [24] Larissa A. Lomnitz and Marisol Perez-Lizaur, for example, describe the grand-family as "the basic unit of family solidarity in Mexico", where basic family obligations between grandparents, children, and grandchildren include "economic support, participation in family rituals, and social recognition". [23]

Economic background

Economic background has become a very prominent factor in the likelihood of living in an extended family. Many families[ where? ] who live in low-income areas are beginning[ when? ] to move in with one another for financial and emotional support. The relative economic deprivation of racial and ethnic minorities leads to higher levels of extended family involvement; primarily because blacks and Latinos have less money and education than whites, they are more likely to give and receive help from kin. [25] Having family on which one can rely is very important in times of economic hardship especially if there are children involved. Living in an extended family provides constant care for children and support for other members of the family as well. Analysis of the National Survey of Families and Households[ clarification needed ] suggests there are differences between whites and other ethnic groups because of economic differences among racial groups: blacks and Latinos less often have the economic resources that allow the kind of privatization that the nuclear family entails. Extended kinship, then, is a survival strategy in the face of economic difficulties. [26] Being able to rely on not only two parents but grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters helps to create a support system which in turn brings families closer together. Living in an extended family provides many things that a nuclear family does not.

The number of multigenerational households has been steadily rising because of the economic hardships people are experiencing today.[ when? ] According to the AARP, multigenerational households have increased from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008. [27] "There's no question that with some ethnicities that are growing in America, it is more mainstream and traditional to have multigenerational households. We're going to see that increasing in the general population as well," says AARP's Ginzler. [27] While high unemployment and housing foreclosures of the recession have played a key role in the trend, Pew Research Center exec VP and co-author of its multigenerational household study Paul Taylor said it has been growing over several decades, fueled by demographic and cultural shifts such as the rising number of immigrants and the rising average age of young-adult marriages. [28] The importance of an extended family is one that many people may not realize, but having a support system and many forms of income may help people today because of the difficulties in finding a job and bringing in enough money.[ clarification needed ]

Complex family

"Complex family" is a generic term for any family structure involving more than two adults. The term can refer to any extended family, polyamorous or to a polygamy of any type. It is often used to refer to the group marriage form of polygamy.

See also

Related Research Articles

A nuclear family, elementary family or conjugal family is a family group consisting of two parents and their children. It is in contrast to a single-parent family, the larger extended family, and a family with more than two parents. Nuclear families typically center on a married couple which may have any number of children. There are differences in definition among observers some definitions allow only biological children that are full-blood siblings and consider adopted or half and step siblings apart of the immediate family, but others allow for a stepparent and any mix of dependent children including stepchildren and adopted children. Some sociologists and anthropologists consider the nuclear family as the most basic form of social organization.

A step family, blended family, bonus family, or instafamily is a family where at least one parent has children that are not biologically or adoptive related to the other spouse or partner. Either parent, or all, may have children from previous relationships. Children in a stepfamily may live with one biological or adoptive parent, or they may live with each biological or adoptive parent for a period of time. In addition, visitation rights mean that children in stepfamilies often have contact with both biological parents, even if they permanently live with only one.

A single parent is a person who lives with a child or children and who does not have a spouse or live-in partner. Reasons for becoming a single parent include divorce, break-up, abandonment, death of the other parent, childbirth by a single woman or single-person adoption. A single parent family is a family with children that is headed by a single parent.

Family values, sometimes referred to as familial values, are traditional or cultural values that pertain to the family's structure, function, roles, beliefs, attitudes, and ideals.

Grandparent Parent of a parent

Grandparents are the parents of a person's father or mother – paternal or maternal. Every sexually-reproducing living organism who is not a genetic chimera has a maximum of four genetic grandparents, eight genetic great-grandparents, sixteen genetic great-great-grandparents, thirty-two genetic great-great-great-grandparents, etc. In the history of modern humanity, around 30,000 years ago, the number of modern humans who lived to be a grandparent increased. It is not known for certain what spurred this increase in longevity but largely results in the improved medical technology and living standard, but it is generally believed that a key consequence of three generations being alive together was the preservation of information which could otherwise have been lost; an example of this important information might have been where to find water in times of drought.

A person's next of kin (NOK) is that person's closest living blood relative or relatives. Some countries, such as the United States, have a legal definition of "next of kin". In other countries, such as the United Kingdom, "next of kin" may have no legal definition and may not necessarily refer to blood relatives at all.

Family tradition, also called Family culture, is defined as an aggregate of attitudes, ideas and ideals, and environment, which a person inherits from their parents and ancestors.

Japanese family

The family is called kazoku (家族) in Japanese. It is basically composed of a couple as is the family in other societies. The Japanese family is based on the line of descent and adoption. Ancestors and offspring are linked together by an idea of family genealogy, or keizu, which does not mean relationships based on mere blood inheritance and succession, but rather a bond of relationship inherent in the maintenance and continuance of the family as an institution.

Chinese kinship

The Chinese kinship system is classified as a "Sudanese" or "descriptive" system for the definition of family. Identified by Lewis Henry Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Sudanese system is one of the six major kinship systems together with Eskimo, Hawaiian, Iroquois, Crow, and Omaha.

Kinship care is a term used in the United States and Great Britain for the raising of children by grandparents, other extended family members, and adults with whom they have a close family-like relationship such as godparents and close family friends because biological parents are unable to do so for whatever reason. Legal custody of a child may or may not be involved, and the child may be related by blood, marriage, or adoption. This arrangement is also known as "kincare" or "relative care." Kinship placement may reduce the number of home placements children experience; allow children to maintain connections to communities, schools, and family members; and increase the likelihood of eventual reunification with birth parents. It is less costly to taxpayers than formal foster care and keeps many children out of the foster care system. "Grandfamily" is a recently coined term in the United States that refers to families engaged in kinship care.

The little emperor syndrome is an aspect/view of Mainland China's one-child policy where children of modern upper class and wealthier Chinese families gain seemingly excessive amounts of attention from their parents and grandparents. Combined with increased spending power due to China's growing economic strength within the family unit and parents' general desire for their child to experience the benefits they themselves were denied, the phenomenon is generally considered to be controversial. The British journalist Andrew Marshall even argues that it is shaping modern Chinese society in unexpected ways that may culminate into a future "behavioral time-bomb".

The sandwich generation is a group of middle-aged adults who care for both their aging parents and their own children. It is not a specific generation or cohort in the sense of the Greatest Generation or the Baby boomer generation, but a phenomenon that can affect anyone whose parents and children need support at the same time.

A joint family or undivided family is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India, consisting of many generations living in the same household, all bound by the common relationship.

Family group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence

In human society, family is a group of people related either by consanguinity or affinity. The purpose of families is to maintain the well-being of its members and of society. Ideally, families would offer predictability, structure, and safety as members mature and participate in the community. In most societies, it is within families that children acquire socialization for life outside the family. Additionally, as the basic unit for meeting the basic needs of its members, it provides a sense of boundaries for performing tasks in a safe environment, ideally builds a person into a functional adult, transmits culture, and ensures continuity of humankind with precedents of knowledge.

Social organization in Cambodia is very hierarchical. The greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect that must be granted to them. Everyone in Khmer culture is given a hierarchical title before the name - in some cases names are shortened with the title added before the name is given - which varies in relation to the person. In some cases elders are referred to by a family title even though there is no relation, out of respect to their seniority in life. Referring to someone by the improper title is a sign of disrespect and would be assumed as improper parenting or a lack of respect for elders.

Family structure in the United States family structure in the United States

The traditional family structure in the United States is considered a family support system involving two married individuals providing care and stability for their biological offspring. However, this two-parent, nuclear family has become less prevalent, and alternative family forms have become more common. The family is created at birth and establishes ties across generations. Those generations, the extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins, can hold significant emotional and economic roles for the nuclear family.

African-American family structure

The family structure of African Americans has long been a matter of national public policy interest. A 1965 report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, known as The Moynihan Report, examined the link between black poverty and family structure. It hypothesized that the destruction of the Black nuclear family structure would hinder further progress toward economic and political equality.

The effects of genocide on youth include psychological and demographic effects that affect the transition into adulthood. These effects are also seen in future generations of youth.

Satellite babies

Satellite babies refer to immigrants’ children who are temporarily sent back to their home country by their parents to be reared by extended family. Typically, the satellite babies are born in the host country and sent back as infants, returning to their parents in time to start schooling or when their parents have established financial stability. Research and media articles on satellite babies have predominantly focused on the topic from a Chinese-American context. Satellite babies have become more prevalent in recent decades due to globalisation, prompting researchers and social workers to raise concerns about the psychological impacts of repeated attachment disruptions and acculturation associated with satellite babies.

Single parents in the United States have become more common since the second half of the 20th century.


  1. Andersen, Margaret L and Taylor, Howard Francis (2007). The extended family may live together for many reasons, such as to help raise children, support for an ill relative, or help with financial problems. Sociology: Understanding a diverse society. p. 396 ISBN   0-495-00742-0.
  2. Gender and Well-Being Interactions between Work, Family and Public Policies COST ACTION A 34 Second Symposium: The Transmission of Well-Being: Marriage Strategies and Inheritance Systems in Europe (17th-20th Centuries) 25th -28th April 2007 University of Minho Guimarães-Portugal http://www.ub.edu/tig/GWBNet/MinhoPapers/Constanta%20Ghitulescu.pdf
  3. David I. Kertzer; Thomas Earl Fricke (15 July 1997). Anthropological Demography: Toward a New Synthesis. University of Chicago Press. pp. 62–. ISBN   978-0-226-43195-6.
  4. Robichaux, David Luke (1 January 1997). "Residence Rules and Ultimogeniture in Tlaxcala and Mesoamerica". Ethnology. 36 (2): 149–171. doi:10.2307/3774080. JSTOR   3774080.
  5. Bulik, B. (2010). We Are Family-And More Of Us Are Living Under One Roof. (Cover story). Advertising Age, 81(30), 1-20.
  6. 1 2 Browne, Ken (2011). Introduction to Sociology. p. 107 ISBN   0-7456-5008-2.
  7. Pillitteri, Adele (2009). Maternal and Child Health Nursing: Care of the Childbearing and Childrearing Family. p. 42 ISBN   1-58255-999-6.
  8. "The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household | Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project". pewsocialtrends.org. 2010-03-18. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  9. It is also said that in an extended family grandfathers and grandmothers take care of the children staying home, mother works in the kitchen and father does the financial work
  10. Pritchard, Colin Pritchard (2006). Mental Health Social Work: Evidence-Based Practice . Routledge. p.  111. ISBN   9781134365449. ... in cultures with stronger 'extended family traditions', such as Asian and Catholic countries...
  11. Pritchard, Colin Pritchard (2006). Mental Health Social Work: Evidence-Based Practice . Routledge. p.  111. ISBN   9781134365449. ... in cultures with stronger 'extended family traditions', such as Asian and Catholic countries...
  12. Family Types and the Persistence of Regional Disparities in Europe http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/33152/1/sercdp0009.pdf
  13. Meyerhoff, Michael. Discovery Fit and Health. Understanding Family Structure and Dynamics: The Extended Family. Discovery Communications, LLC. 2012. Web.
  14. Talwar, Swati. "Meaning of HUF (Hindu Undivided Family)". Taxpaisa.com. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  15. Henry Orenstein and Michael Micklin (1966). "The Hindu Joint Family: The Norms and the Numbers". Pacific Affairs. 39 (3/4): 314–325. doi:10.2307/2754275. JSTOR   2754275. Autumn, 1966CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  16. Cherlin, Andrew J. (2010). Public and Private families. McGraw Hill.
  17. Surge in Multigenerational Households, U.S. News (March 21, 2010).
  18. Lee, Y., & Blitz, L. V. (2016). "We’re GRAND: a qualitative design and development pilot project addressing the needs and strengths of grandparents raising grandchildren. Child & Family Social Work, 21(4), 381–390." doi : 10.1111/cfs.12153
  19. Cox, Carole. B.(2000). "To Grandmother's House We Go And Stay: Perspectives on Custodial Grandparents."
  20. Bronson, Po. Multiple Generation/Extended Family Households. The Factbook: eye-opening memos on everything family. 2000 Archived 2017-07-18 at the Wayback Machine
  21. When is a Parent's Authority Apparent? Reconsidering Third Party Consent Searches of an Adult Child's Private Bedroom and Property, Criminal Justice, Vol. 24, pp. 34–37, Winter 2010.
  22. The Family on the Threshold of the 21st Century: Trends and Implications By Solly Dreman
  23. 1 2 Lomnitz, Larissa A.; Perez-Lizaur, Marisol (2003). "Dynastic Growth and Survival Strategies: The Solidarity of Mexican Grand Families". In Cheal, David (ed.). Family: Critical Concepts in Sociology. Psychology Press. p. 377. ISBN   978-0415226325 . Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  24. Jelin, Elizabeth (1991). Family, Household and Gender Relations in Latin America. Kegan Paul International. ISBN   978-9231026577.
  25. Gerstel, N (2011). "Rethinking Families and Community: The Color, Class, and Centrality of Extended Kin Ties". Sociological Forum. 26 (1): 1–20. doi:10.1111/j.1573-7861.2010.01222.x.
  26. Gerstel, N. (2011). Rethinking Families and Community: The Color, Class, and Centrality of Extended Kin Ties. Sociological Forum, 26(1), 1-20. doi:10.1111/ j.1573-7861.2010.01222.x
  27. 1 2 Metcalf, E. R. (2010). "The Family That Stays Together". Saturday Evening Post. 282 (1): 39.
  28. Bulik, B (2010). "We Are Family-And More Of Us Are Living Under One Roof. (Cover story)". Advertising Age. 81 (30): 1–20.