Nuclear family

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A nuclear family, elementary family or conjugal family is a family group consisting of two parents and their children (one or more). It is in contrast to a single-parent family, the larger extended family, or 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 a part 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.

Contents

Overview

Family structures of a mixing couple and their children were present in Western Europe and New England in the 17th century, influenced by church and theocratic governments. [1] With the emergence of proto-industrialization and early capitalism, the nuclear family became a financially viable social unit. [2] The term nuclear family first appeared in the early twentieth century. Alternative definitions have evolved to include family units headed by same-sex parents [3] and perhaps additional adult relatives who take on a cohabiting parental role; [4] in the latter case, it also receives the name of conjugal family. [3]

The concept that narrowly defines a nuclear family as central to stability in modern society that has been promoted by familialists who are social conservatives in the United States, and has been challenged as historically and sociologically inadequate to describe the complexity of actual family relations. [5] In "Freudian Theories of Identification and Their Derivatives" Urie Bronfenbrenner states, "Very little is known about the extent variation in the behavior of fathers and mothers towards sons and daughters, and even less about the possible effects on such differential treatment." Little is known about how parental behavior and identification processes work, and how children interpret sex role learning. In his theory, he uses "identification" with the father in the sense that the son will follow the sex role provided by his father and then for the father to be able to identify the difference of the "cross sex" parent for his daughter.

Historians Alan Macfarlane and Peter Laslett postulated that nuclear families have been a primary arrangement in England since the 13th century. This primary arrangement was different from the normal arrangements in Southern Europe, in parts of Asia, and the Middle East where it was common for young adults to remain in or marry into the family home. In England, multi-generational households were uncommon because young adults would save enough money to move out, into their own household once they married. Sociologist Brigitte Berger argued, "the young nuclear family had to be flexible and mobile as it searched for opportunity and property. Forced to rely on their own ingenuity, its members also needed to plan for the future and develop bourgeois habits of work and saving." [6] Berge also mentions that this could be one of the reasons why the Industrial Revolution began in England and other Northwest European countries. However, the historicity of the nuclear family in England has been challenged by Cord Oestmann. [7]

As a fertility factor, single nuclear family households generally have a higher number of children than co-operative living arrangements according to studies from both the Western world [8] and India. [9]

There have been studies done that shows a difference in the number of children wanted per household according to where they live. Families that live in rural areas wanted to have more kids than families in urban areas. A study done in Japan between October 2011 and February 2012 further researched the effect of area of residence on mean desired number of children. [10] Researchers of the study came to the conclusion that the women living in rural areas with larger families were more likely to want more children, compared to women that lived in urban areas in Japan.

History

DNA extracted from bones and teeth in a 4,600-year-old Stone Age burial in Germany has provided the earliest evidence for the social recognition of a family consisting of two parents with multiple children. [11] However, there is no evidence to show that the family lived in an exclusive, one-family household without servants, slaves, friends or members of their extended family. This is not therefore evidence of the earlier existence of the modern nuclear family living.

Usage of the term

An American nuclear family composed of the mother, father, and their children circa 1955 W.H. Shumard family, circa 1955.jpg
An American nuclear family composed of the mother, father, and their children circa 1955

Merriam-Webster dates the term back to 1947, [12] while the Oxford English Dictionary has a reference to the term from 1925; thus it is relatively new.

In its most common usage, the term nuclear family refers to a household consisting of a father, a mother and their children [13] all in one household dwelling. [12] George Murdock, an observer of families, offered an early description:

The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It contains adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults. [14]

Many individuals are part of two nuclear families in their lives: the family of origin in which they are offspring, and the family of procreation in which they are a parent. [15]

While the phrase dates approximately from the Atomic Age, the term "nuclear" is not used here in the context of nuclear warfare, nuclear power, nuclear fission or nuclear fusion; rather, it arises from a more general use of the noun nucleus, itself originating in the Latin nux, meaning "nut", i.e. the core of something – thus, the nuclear family refers to all members of the family being part of the same core rather than directly to atomic weapons.

Compared with extended family

An extended group consists of non-nuclear (or "non-immediate") family members considered together with nuclear (or "immediate") family members. When extended family is involved they also influence children's development just as much as the parents would on their own. [16] In an extended family resources are usually shared among those involved, adding more of a community aspect to the family unit. This is not limited to the sharing of objects and money, but includes sharing time. For example, extended family such as grandparents can watch over their grandchildren allowing parents to continue and pursue careers and creating a healthy and supportive environment the children to grow up in and allows the parents to have much less stress. [16] Extended families help keep the kids in the family healthier because of all the resources the kids get now that they have other individuals able to help them and support them as they grow up. [16]

Changes to family formation

From 1970 to 2000, family arrangements in the US became more diverse with no particular household arrangement prevalent enough to be identified as the "average" Families US.svg
From 1970 to 2000, family arrangements in the US became more diverse with no particular household arrangement prevalent enough to be identified as the "average"

In 2005, information from the United States Census Bureau showed that 70% of children in the US live in two-parent families, [17] with 66% of those living with parents who were married, and 60% living with their biological parents. The information also explained that "the figures suggest that the tumultuous shifts in family structure since the late 1960s have leveled off since 1990". [18]

When considered separately from couples without children, single-parent families, and unmarried couples with children, the United States nuclear families appear to constitute a minority of households – with a rising prevalence of other family arrangements. In 2000, nuclear families with the original biological parents constituted roughly 24.10% of American households, compared with 40.30% in 1970. [17] Roughly two-thirds of all children in the United States will spend at least some time in a single-parent household. [19] According to some sociologists, "[The nuclear family] no longer seems adequate to cover the wide diversity of household arrangements we see today." (Edwards 1991; Stacey 1996). A new term has been introduced[ by whom? ], postmodern family, intended to describe the great variability in family forms, including single-parent families and couples without children." [17] Nuclear family households are now less common compared to household with couples without children, single-parent families, and unmarried couples with children.

In the UK, the number of nuclear families fell from 39.0% of all households in 1968 to 28.0% in 1992. The decrease accompanied an equivalent increase in the number of single-parent households and in the number of adults living alone. [20]

Professor Wolfgang Haak of Adelaide University, detects traces of the nuclear family in prehistoric Central Europe. A 2005 archeological dig in Elau in Germany, analyzed by Haak, revealed genetic evidence suggesting that the 13 individuals found in a grave were closely related. Haak said, "By establishing the genetic links between the two adults and two children buried together in one grave, we have established the presence of the classic nuclear family in a prehistoric context in Central Europe.... Their unity in death suggest[s] a unity in life." [21] This paper does not regard the nuclear family as "natural" or as the only model for human family life. "This does not establish the elemental family to be a universal model or the most ancient institution of human communities. For example, polygamous unions are prevalent in ethnographic data and models of household communities have apparently been involving a high degree of complexity from their origins." [21]

Criticism

Criticism towards the model of nuclear family is described in Criticism of Western familism

North American conservatism

For social conservatism in the United States and Canada, the idea that the nuclear family is traditional is an important aspect, where family is seen as the primary unit of society. These movements oppose alternative family forms and social institutions that are seen by them to undermine parental authority. The numbers of nuclear families is slowly dwindling in the US as more women pursue higher education, develop professional lives, and delay having children until later in their life. [22] Children and marriage have become less appealing as many women continue to face societal, familial, and/or peer pressure to give up their education and successful career to focus on stabilizing the home. [22] As diversity in the United States continues to increase, it is becoming difficult for the traditional nuclear family to stay the norm. [22] Data from 2014 also suggests that single parents and the likelihood of children living with one is also correlated with race. Pew Research Center has found that 54% of African-American individuals will be single parents compared to 19% of Caucasian individuals. [22] Several factors account for the differences in family structure including economic and social class. Differences in education level also change the amount of single parents. In 2014, those with less than a high school education are 46% more likely to be a single parent compared to 12% who have graduated from college. [22]

Critics of the term "traditional family" point out that in most cultures and at most times, the extended family model has been most common, not the nuclear family, [23] though it has had a longer tradition in England [24] than in other parts of Europe and Asia which contributed large numbers of immigrants to the Americas. The nuclear family became the most common form in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. [25]

See also

Related Research Articles

Cohabitation is an arrangement where two people are not married but live together. They are often involved in a romantic or sexually intimate relationship on a long-term or permanent basis.

Common-law marriage, also known as sui iuris marriage, informal marriage, marriage by habit and repute, or marriage in fact, is a legal framework in a limited number of jurisdictions where a couple is legally considered married, without that couple having formally registered their relation as a civil or religious marriage.

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.

Kinship Human relationship term; web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of most humans in most societies; form of social connection

In anthropology, kinship is the web of social relationships that form an important part of the lives of all humans in all societies, although its exact meanings even within this discipline are often debated. Anthropologist Robin Fox states that "the study of kinship is the study of what man does with these basic facts of life – mating, gestation, parenthood, socialization, siblingship etc." Human society is unique, he argues, in that we are "working with the same raw material as exists in the animal world, but [we] can conceptualize and categorize it to serve social ends." These social ends include the socialization of children and the formation of basic economic, political and religious groups.

Parasite single is a single person who lives with their parents beyond their late 20s or early 30s to enjoy a more carefree and comfortable life. In Japanese culture, the term is especially used when negatively describing young unmarried women.

Eskimo kinship or Inuit kinship is a category of kinship used to define family organization in anthropology. Identified by Lewis Henry Morgan in his 1871 work Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family, the Eskimo system was one of six major kinship systems.

Conjugal family

A conjugal family is a nuclear family that may consist of a married couple and their children or a couple who are unmarried or underage. Conjugal means there is a marriage relationship. The family relationship is principally focused inward and ties to extended kin are voluntary and based on emotional bonds, rather than strict duties and obligations. The spouses and their children are considered to be of prime importance, and other more distant relatives less important. The marriage bond is important and stressed.

Commonly "cousin" refers to a "first cousin", a relative whose most recent common ancestor with the subject is a grandparent. More generally, in the lineal kinship system used in the English-speaking world, a cousin is a type of familial relationship in which two relatives are two or more familial generations away from their most recent common ancestor.

Sociology of the family is a subfield of the subject of sociology, in which researchers and academics evaluate family structure as a social institution and unit of socialization from various sociological perspectives. It is usually included in the general education of tertiary curriculum, since it is usually an illustrative example of patterned social relations and group dynamics.

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 following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to interpersonal relationships.

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.

Adult interdependent relationship in Alberta

Since 2003, adult interdependent relationships have been available to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples in the Canadian province of Alberta, imposing some but not all of the obligations of marriage and providing some but not all the rights and benefits thereof.

Neolocal residence is a type of post-marital residence in which a newly married couple resides separately from both the husband's natal household and the wife's natal household. Neolocal residence forms the basis of most developed nations, especially in the West, and is also found among some nomadic communities.

Familialism or familism is an ideology that puts priority to family. The term familialism has been specifically used for advocating a welfare system wherein it is presumed that families will take responsibility for the care of their members rather than leaving that responsibility to the government. The term familism relates more to family values. This can manifest as prioritizing the needs of the family higher than that of individuals. Yet, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Society of the United States

The society of the United States is based on Western culture, and has been developing since long before the United States became a country with its own unique social and cultural characteristics such as dialect, music, arts, social habits, cuisine, and folklore. Today, the United States of America is an ethnically and racially diverse country as a result of large-scale immigration from many different countries throughout its history.

History of the family

The history of the family is a branch of social history that concerns the sociocultural evolution of kinship groups from prehistoric to modern times. The family has a universal and basic role in all societies. Research on the history of the family crosses disciplines and cultures, aiming to understand the structure and function of the family from many viewpoints. For example, sociological, ecological or economical perspectives are used to view the interrelationships between the individual, their relatives, and the historical time. The study of family history has shown that family systems are flexible, culturally diverse and adaptive to ecological and economical conditions.

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.

Marriage in Japan

Marriage in Japan is a legal and social institution at the center of the household. Couples are legally married once they have made the change in status on their family registration sheets, without the need for a ceremony. Most weddings are held either according to Shinto traditions or in chapels according to Christian marriage traditions.

Western European marriage pattern

The Western European marriage pattern is a family and demographic pattern that is marked by comparatively late marriage, especially for women, with a generally small age difference between the spouses, a significant proportion of women who remain unmarried, and the establishment of a neolocal household after the couple has married. In 1965, John Hajnal discovered that Europe is divided into two areas characterized by a different patterns of nuptiality. To the west of the line, marriage rates and thus fertility were comparatively low and a significant minority of women married late or remained single and most families were nuclear; to the east of the line and in the Mediterranean and particular regions of Northwestern Europe, early marriage and extended family homes were the norm and high fertility was countered by high mortality.

References

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  2. Traditions and Encounters: A Brief Global History (New York: McGraw Hill, 2008).
  3. 1 2 "Nuclear family". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-24.
  4. "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."
    Sloan Work and Family Research Network, citing Parkin, R. (1997). Kinship: An introduction to basic concepts. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  5. Johnson, Miriam M. (1 January 1963). "Sex Role Learning in the Nuclear Family". Child Development. 34 (2): 319–333. doi:10.2307/1126730. JSTOR   1126730.
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  7. Cord Oestmann (1994). Lordship and Community: The Lestrange Family and the Village of Hunstanton, Norfolk, in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century. Boydell Press. pp. 53–. ISBN   978-0-85115-351-3.
  8. Nicoletta Balbo; Francesco C. Billari; Melinda Mills (2013). "Fertility in Advanced Societies: A Review of Research". European Journal of Population. 29 (1): 1–38. doi:10.1007/s10680-012-9277-y. PMC   3576563 . PMID   23440941.
  9. Gandotra MM, Pandey D (1982). "Differences in fertility and family planning practices by type of family". Journal of Family Welfare. 29 (1): 29–40.
  10. Matsumoto, Yasuyo; Yamabe, Shingo (2013-01-30). "Family size preference and factors affecting the fertility rate in Hyogo, Japan". Reproductive Health. 10: 6. doi:10.1186/1742-4755-10-6. ISSN   1742-4755. PMC   3563619 . PMID   23363875.
  11. "World's Earliest Nuclear Family Found". ScienceDaily.
  12. 1 2 Merriam-Webster Online. "Definition of nuclear family".
  13. "Nuclear family - Definition and pronunciation". Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
  14. Murdock, George Peter (1965) [1949]. Social Structure . New York: Free Press. ISBN   978-0-02-922290-4.
  15. Collins, Donald; Jordan, Catheleen; Coleman, Heather (2009). An Introduction to Family Social Work (3 ed.). Cengage Learning. p.  27. ISBN   978-0-495-60188-3.
  16. 1 2 3 LaFave, Dainel; Thomas, Duncan (March 2012). "Extended family and child well being" (PDF). Extended Family and Child Well Being.
  17. 1 2 3 Williams, Brian; Stacey C. Sawyer; Carl M. Wahlstrom (2005). Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships. Boston, MA: Pearson. ISBN   978-0-205-36674-3.
  18. Roberts, Sam (February 25, 2008). "Most Children Still Live in Two-Parent Homes, Census Bureau Reports". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-05.
  19. "Focus on Michigan's Future: Changing Family and Household". web.archive.org. July 3, 2007.
  20. Pothan, Peter (September 1992). "Nuclear family nonsense". Third Way. 15 (7): 25–28.
  21. 1 2 Haak, Wolfgang; Brandt, Herman; de Jong, Hylke N.; Meyer, C; Ganslmeier, R; Heyd, V; Hawkesworth, C; Pike, AW; et al. (2008). "Ancient DNA, Strontium isotopes, and osteological analyses shed light on social and kinship organization of the Later Stone Age" (PDF). PNAS. 105 (47): 18226–18231. doi:10.1073/pnas.0807592105. PMC   2587582 . PMID   19015520.
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  23. "Parenting Myths And Facts". NPR.org.
  24. see History of the family § Evolution of household
  25. "History of Nuclear Families". bebusinessed.com. January 3, 2017.