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Family structure relates to various aspects of families, the way they are organised, the power relations within the group, the size of the family etc.

A conjugal family consists of one or more parents/guardians and their children. The most common form of this family is regularly referred to as a nuclear family.[1]

A consanguineal family consists of a parent and his or her children, and other people. This kind of family is common where mothers do not have the resources to rear their children on their own, and especially where property is inherited. [How to reference and link to summary or text] When important property is owned by men, consanguineal families commonly consist of a husband and wife, their children and other members of the husband's family. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

A matrifocal family consists of a mother and her children. Generally, these children are her biological offspring, although adoption of children is a practice in nearly every society. This kind of family is common where women have the resources to rear their children by themselves, or where men are more mobile than women.

Kinship terminologyEdit

Main article: Kinship terminology

Archaeologist Lewis Henry Morgan (1818–1881) performed the first survey of kinship terminologies in use around the world. Though much of his work is now considered dated, he argued that kinship terminologies reflect different sets of distinctions. For example, most kinship terminologies distinguish between sexes (the difference between a brother and a sister) and between generations (the difference between a child and a parent). Moreover, he argued, kinship terminologies distinguish between relatives by blood and marriage (although recently some anthropologists have argued that many societies define kinship in terms other than "blood").

Morgan made a distinction between kinship systems that use classificatory terminology and those that use descriptive terminology. Morgan's distinction is widely misunderstood, even by contemporary anthropologists. Classificatory systems are generally and erroneously understood to be those that "class together" with a single term relatives who actually do not have the same type of relationship to ego. (What defines "same type of relationship" under such definitions seems to be genealogical relationship. This is more than a bit problematic given that any genealogical description, no matter how standardized, employs words originating in a folk understanding of kinship.) What Morgan's terminology actually differentiates are those (classificatory) kinship systems that do not distinguish lineal and collateral relationships and those (descriptive) kinship systems which do. Morgan, a lawyer, came to make this distinction in an effort to understand Seneca inheritance practices. A Seneca man's effects were inherited by his sisters' children rather than by his own children.[2]

Morgan identified six basic patterns of kinship terminologies:

  • Hawaiian: only distinguishes relatives based upon sex and generation.
  • Sudanese: no two relatives share the same term.
  • Eskimo: in addition to distinguishing relatives based upon sex and generation, also distinguishes between lineal relatives and collateral relatives.
  • Iroquois: in addition to sex and generation, also distinguishes between siblings of opposite sexes in the parental generation.
  • Crow: a matrilineal system with some features of an Iroquois system, but with a "skewing" feature in which generation is "frozen" for some relatives.
  • Omaha: like a Crow system but patrilineal.

Western kinshipEdit

See also: Cousin chart

Most Western societies employ Eskimo kinship terminology. This kinship terminology commonly occurs in societies based on conjugal (or nuclear) families, where nuclear families have a degree of relatively mobility.

Members of the nuclear family (or immediate family) use descriptive kinship terms:

  • Mother: a female parent
  • Father: a male parent
  • Son: a male child of the parent(s)
  • Daughter: a female child of the parent(s)
  • Brother: a male child of the same parent(s)
  • Sister: a female child of the same parent(s)
  • Grandfather: father of a father or mother
  • Grandmother: mother of a father or mother

Such systems generally assume that the mother's husband has also served as the biological father. In some families, a woman may have children with more than one man or a man may have children with more than one woman. The system refers to a child who shares only one parent with another child as a "half-brother" or "half-sister". For children who do not share biological or adoptive parents in common, English-speakers use the term "stepbrother" or "stepsister" to refer to their new relationship with each other when one of their biological parents marries one of the other child's biological parents.

Any person (other than the biological parent of a child) who marries the parent of that child becomes the "stepparent" of the child, either the "stepmother" or "stepfather". The same terms generally apply to children adopted into a family as to children born into the family.

Typically, societies with conjugal families also favor neolocal residence; thus upon marriage a person separates from the nuclear family of their childhood (family of orientation) and forms a new nuclear family (family of procreation).

However, in the western society the single parent family has been growing more accepted and has begun to truly make an impact on culture. The majority of single parent families are more commonly single mother families than single father. These families face many difficult issues besides the fact that they have to raise their children on their own, but also have to deal with issues related to low income. Many single parents struggle with low incomes and find it hard to cope with other issues that they face including rent, child care, and other necessities required in maintaining a healthy and safe home.

Members of the nuclear families of members of one's own (former) nuclear family may class as lineal or as collateral. Kin who regard them as lineal refer to them in terms that build on the terms used within the nuclear family:

File:Baby Mother Grandmother and Great Grandmother.jpg
File:Grandson.JPG
  • Grandparent
    • Grandfather: a parent's father
    • Grandmother: a parent's mother
  • Grandson: a child's son
  • Granddaughter: a child's daughter

For collateral relatives, more classificatory terms come into play, terms that do not build on the terms used within the nuclear family:

  • Uncle: father's brother, mother's brother, father's/mother's sister's husband
  • Aunt: father's sister, mother's sister, father's/mother's brother's wife
  • Nephew: sister's son, brother's son, wife's brother's son, wife's sister's son, husband's brother's son, husband's sister's son
  • Niece: sister's daughter, brother's daughter, wife's brother's daughter, wife's sister's daughter, husband's brother's daughter, husband's sister's daughter

When additional generations intervene (in other words, when one's collateral relatives belong to the same generation as one's grandparents or grandchildren), the prefix "grand" modifies these terms. (Although in casual usage in the USA a "grand aunt" is often referred to as a "great aunt", for instance.) And as with grandparents and grandchildren, as more generations intervene the prefix becomes "great grand", adding an additional "great" for each additional generation.

Most collateral relatives have never had membership of the nuclear family of the members of one's own nuclear family.

  • Cousin: the most classificatory term; the children of aunts or uncles. One can further distinguish cousins by degrees of collaterality and by generation. Two persons of the same generation who share a grandparent count as "first cousins" (one degree of collaterality); if they share a great-grandparent they count as "second cousins" (two degrees of collaterality) and so on. If two persons share an ancestor, one as a grandchild and the other as a great-grandchild of that individual, then the two descendants class as "first cousins once removed" (removed by one generation); if the shared ancestor figures as the grandparent of one individual and the great-great-grandparent of the other, the individuals class as "first cousins twice removed" (removed by two generations), and so on. Similarly, if the shared ancestor figures as the great-grandparent of one person and the great-great-grandparent of the other, the individuals class as "second cousins once removed". Hence the phrase "third cousin once removed upwards".

Cousins of an older generation (in other words, one's parents' first cousins), though technically first cousins once removed, often get classified with "aunts" and "uncles".

Similarly, a person may refer to close friends of one's parents as "aunt" or "uncle", or may refer to close friends as "brother" or "sister", using the practice of fictive kinship.

English-speakers mark relationships by marriage (except for wife/husband) with the tag "-in-law". The mother and father of one's spouse become one's mother-in-law and father-in-law; the female spouse of one's child becomes one's daughter-in-law and the male spouse of one's child becomes one's son-in-law. The term "Sister-in-law" refers to three essentially different relationships, either the wife of one's sibling, or the sister of one's spouse, or the wife of one's spouse's sibling. "Brother-in-law" expresses a similar ambiguity. No special terms exist for the rest of one's spouse's family.

The terms "half-brother" and "half-sister" indicate siblings who share only one biological or adoptive parent.

Family in the WestEdit

File:Families US.png

The diverse data coming from ethnography, history, law and social statistics, establish that the human family is an institution and not a biological fact founded on the natural relationship of consanguinity.[4][5]

The different types of families occur in a wide variety of settings, and their specific functions and meanings depend largely on their relationship to other social institutions. Sociologists have a special interest in the function and status of these forms in stratified (especially capitalist) societies.

The term "nuclear family" is commonly used, especially in the United States and Europe, to refer to conjugal families. Sociologists distinguish between conjugal families (relatively independent of the kindreds of the parents and of other families in general) and nuclear families (which maintain relatively close ties with their kindreds).

The term "extended family" is also common, especially in the United States and Europe. This term has two distinct meanings. First, it serves as a synonym of "consanguinal family". Second, in societies dominated by the conjugal family, it refers to kindred (an egocentric network of relatives that extends beyond the domestic group) who do not belong to the conjugal family.

These types refer to ideal or normative structures found in particular societies. Any society will exhibit some variation in the actual composition and conception of families. Much sociological, historical and anthropological research dedicates itself to the understanding of this variation, and of changes in the family form over time. Thus, some speak of the bourgeois family, a family structure arising out of 16th-century and 17th-century European households, in which the family centers on a marriage between a man and woman, with strictly-defined gender-roles. The man typically has responsibility for income and support, the woman for home and family matters.

Philosophers and psychiatrists like Deleuze, Guattari, Laing, Reich, explained that the patriarchal-family conceived in the West tradition (husband-wife-children isolated from the outside) serves the purpose of perpetuating a propertarian and authoritarian society.[6] The child grows according to the Oedipal model, which is typical of the structure of capitalist societies,[5][4] and he becomes in turn owner of submissive children and protector of the woman.[7][8][9][10][11]

The family institution conflicts with human nature, and one of its core functions is performing a suppression of instincts,[4][5] a repression of desire commencing with the earliest age of the child.[6] This psychic repression is such that social repression becomes desired, forming docile subjects for society.[6] Michel Foucault, in his systematic study of sexuality, observed more precisely that desire, other than being repressed, is shaped and used as a tool, to control the individual and alter interpersonal relationships. organized religion, through moral prohibitions, and the economic power, through advertising, make use of unconscious sex drives. Dominating desire, they dominate individuals.[12]

According to the analysis of Michel Foucault, in the west:

the [conjugal] family organization, precisely to the extent that it was insular and heteromorphous with respect to the other power mechanisms, was used to support the great "maneuvers" employed for the Malthusian control of the birthrate, for the populationist incitements, for the medicalization of sex and the psychiatrization of its nongenital forms.
Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality vol I, chap. IV, sect. Method, rule 3, p.99

According to the work of scholars Max Weber, Alan Macfarlane, Steven Ozment, Jack Goody and Peter Laslett, the huge transformation that led to modern marriage in Western democracies was "fueled by the religio-cultural value system provided by elements of Judaism, early Christianity, Roman Catholic canon law and the Protestant Reformation".[13]

In contemporary Europe and the United States, people in academic, political and civil sectors have called attention to single-father-headed households, and families headed by same-sex couples,[How to reference and link to summary or text] although academics point out that these forms exist in other societies. Also the term blended family or stepfamily describes families with mixed parents: one or both parents remarried, bringing children of the former family into the new family.[14]

Power relationsEdit

Type of familyEdit

Aspects of familyEdit

These and other aspects of families are considered as sociocultural factors that may affect personality development, mental health, educational attainment etc. These would include:

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. nuclear family - "a woman and/or husband and dependent children." - Definitions of Anthropological Terms - Anthropological Resources - (Court Smith) Department of Anthropology, Oregon State,University
  2. Tooker, Elisabeth. “Another View of Morgan on Kinship.” Current Anthropology 20, no. 1 (March 1979): 131-134.
  3. Williams, Brian; Stacey C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom (2005). Marriages, Families & Intinamte Relationships, Boston, MA: Pearson. 0-205-36674-0.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lacan 1938-2001, pp.24-25, 56
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Fugier Pascal, 2007, p.226-8
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Deleuze-Guattari (1972). Part 2, ch. 7, pp.129-31
  7. Italiano:
    Gianni Vattimo Tutto in famiglia (article appeared on Il Manifesto October 15 2004)
    
  8. Italiano:
    Luttazzi, Daniele Bollito misto con mostarda (2005) p.262
    
  9. Wilhelm Reich The Sexual Revolution 1975 - Pocket Books (p. 71-77)
  10. Theodor W. Adorno and Stephen Crook Adorno ISBN 0415270995, p. 9-10
  11. E. James Anthony, The Family and the Psychoanalytic Process in Children (1980). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 35:3-34
  12. Foucault, The History of Sexuality
  13. The Collapse of Marriage by Don Browning - The Christian Century, (February 7, 2006, 24-28.). URL accessed on 2007-07-10.
  14. Blended and Blessed - Encouraging Step-Families [dead link]
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