Definition of Family
No universal definition of the family exists, but rather many appropriate definitions do (Petzold 1998). Definitions are not only racially and inter-generationally diverse (Bedford and Blieszner 2000), but are also situationally diverse.
Functionally, arguments related to defining the family are most often dependent on one's paradigm of social interaction and one's purpose in defining the term. Thus, perspectives on what constitutes family vary greatly. The family becomes what the individual or the researcher perceives it to be based on the purpose for which the term is being used. In defining family, there is often vigorous discussion contrasting form or process. Beliefs, which frequently have an emotional cornerstone; bias, our perception of what family is, should be or could be.
In all of the complexity of defining family, however, there is a strong emerging international theme within the scientific community that is based on evidence. Variations in family form and process are extremely prevalent but must also acknowledge the dominant structures by which cultures define family. In contrast to the reactionary themes of the 1960s and 1970s to "traditional family," we have observed openness to family diversity in more recent literature. As a result of greater international networks, particularly in the research communities, we are growing increasingly aware of dominant family definitions that acknowledge its great variety.
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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesDefinition of Family - Related Constructs, Inclusive Definitions, Theoretical Definitions, Situational Definitions, Normative Definitions, Conclusion