The Meaning Of Family (Essay Sample)

The Meaning Of Family

There are various definitions of a family depending on the context. A family sometimes is beyond just parents and children or having common ancestry. The definition of a family can be based on the structure, functionality, interactional features or symbolic elements (Cecil R. Andrew & Taitte W Lawson, 2007). The family is an important part of human life. It nurtures lives of individuals and enables social interaction through a variety of factors. Sometimes the family is a title associated with individuals who are related in some ways and have special shared bonds. The different meanings of a family can be seen in different available theories.

The Structural Meaning of a Family

The structural features help to define a family. According to this theory, a family has a varied number of people related in certain ways like fathers, mothers, and children. Such definition of a family extends to include grandparents, step-relations, in-laws and sometimes former relatives. The membership composition makes the central point when defining a family structurally. The family members may be associated with each other due to blood relations, marriage or as a result of legal bonds like adoption. Besides, members who share a household may form a family by the structure. The structural definition of a family focuses on differentiating social groups that are in a certain family and those that do not qualify to be a family (George P. Robert & Elshtain Jean, 2017).

The kind of relationships that exists among members to make the social bonds form an important part of the structural definition of a family. Crucial bonds among family members are established by regular communication, affection and daily duties. Families use varied principles to organize activities of each member. The principles may be based on gender, age, and connection to the society beyond family setting. Such structures are crucial to separate a family from other forms of social organizations (George P. Robert & Elshtain Jean, 2017).

The structural definition implies that some theorists limit their understanding of a family to only married individuals and children. Such a definition overlooks the existence of other crucial social organizations that may not be related to each other by blood but still qualify to be families. Besides, some theorists tend to compare the various family structures. For instance, one may study the parent-child relations by comparing a family with two parents to one with single or no parent.

Functional Meaning of a Family

Functional elements form another way to define a family. The functional meaning sometimes tries to define reasons for family existence. The central idea of the functional definition is that every human being lives under a family which serves a certainly recognized duty. The functional definition of a family majorly focuses on the significance of reproduction in human beings. Besides, the emphasis is also on the necessity to nurture dependent children over a certain period of time (George P. Robert & Elshtain Jean, 2017). The functional definition of a family discusses the effectiveness of a certain family structure in comparison with others. The structure results in a dysfunctional family if it does not accomplish some specific functions.

Meaning of a Family based on Interactional Features

The definition of a family based on interactional features takes into account the continuous social interaction processes in a family. The social interactions can be in structured or patterned manner. However, an emphasis is on the activities carried out in the family which can be done either jointly or individually. The social interactions in a family include concepts about activities of each member, the influence of members towards one another, and also the quality and significance of the existing relationships. Therefore, this perspective takes into consideration any social group that interacts with family to be indeed a family; not necessarily having a certain structure (Cecil R Andrew & Taitte W Lawson, 2007).

Meaning of a Family based on Symbolic Elements

The main elements of defining a family include perceptions, interactions, and meanings that individuals have about certain experiences of a family. Some scientists understand the meaning of a family by watching how members apply dialogue to develop, challenge or alter meanings in social life. The symbolic elements that people apply in modeling and recreating a family mostly go beyond words spoken by mouth. Some of the nonverbal symbols include intonations, statements in writing form, and gestures of the body, dressing and grooming practices, photographs and also a state of possessions in a home. Emphasis is on languages or modes of communication and other artifacts having symbolic meaning.

All the above meanings of a family are sometimes combined. For instance, the structural and functional meanings can be combined to form the structure-functional perspective of a family. A combination of symbolic and interactional perspective results in the perspective of symbolic interaction meaning of a family (Cecil R Andrew & Taitte W Lawson, 2007).

Significance of a Family

The discussion about different meanings of family illustrates a very significant part of life for every individual. Families stand out to be the foundation of crucial support, teachers, role models, counselors and other vital necessities of life. Individuals find maximum comfort, especially in the stable families. The parents in stable families always take care of children, ensure they grow up with upright morals and prepare them to interact with a diverse society.

Sometimes families can consist of those whom we trust to tell our secrets even if they are personal. Such people are always ready to offer emotional support and give guidance. Special people who are always ready to offer their support may not necessarily have blood relations. Best friends can sometimes fall into the category of a family. The friends might have a lot of information about us but are always learning something new through close interaction. The family is all about love and care even if it turns out to be weird. Any individual who falls into the category of a family has the virtue of acceptance and understanding others. A family does not fade away just because of disagreements. It sticks together through all times regardless of the prevailing conditions (Loofbourrow Kaylee, 2016).

However, sometimes a family can be the source of misery when it becomes dysfunctional. The unfaithful individual can cause great pain to the other especially for married couples. Besides, an absentee parent can affect the normal development of children in the society. Many families around the world are broken due to various factors that develop either from within or outside the family structure. All these negative influences in a family can be solved if every individual takes the responsibility (Loofbourrow Kaylee, 2016).

The meaning of a family might have many meanings but its objective should be to make life peaceful and comfortable. Any person who belongs to a family setup whether through blood relations or by other social bonds should feel the positive impact of its existence. The existence of families is a crucial part of life that every individual should nurture.


  • Cecil R Andrew & Taitte W Lawson (2007). The meaning of the family in a free society. Dallas: University of Texas at Dallas. Print.
  • George P. Robert & Elshtain Jean (2017). The Meaning of Marriage: Family, State, Market and Morals. Washington DC: Sceptor Publishers.
  • Loofbourrow Kaylee (2016). The True Meaning of Family. University of Toledo: University Press.
  • Net Industries (2017). Family Theory – Meaning of Family. Retrieved from:
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