The basic unit of the social structure in every society is the family. The early and classical definitions emphasized that the family was a group based on marriage, common residence, emotional bonds, and stipulation of domestic services.

The family has also been defined as a group based on marital relations, rights and duties of parenthood, common habitation and reciprocal relations between parents and children. Some sociologists feel that the family is a social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction.

Nowadays the concept of family is viewed in terms of certain criteria applicable to all societies. For instance, it is felt that the family is a primary kinship unit which carries out aspects of the sexual, reproductive, economic and educational functions.

Keeping in mind these definitions, we generally picture a family as a durable association of husband and wife with or without children. The wide variety of family forms, noticed in societies throughout the world in the course of human history, is a cultural phenomenon of considerable interest.


For example, with regard to residence in some societies, families are ‘matrilocal’, where a young married couple takes up residence at the home of the bride’s parents. While in ‘patrilocal’ family, the couple takes up residence at the home of bridegroom’s parents.

Another distinction is made between the conjugal family which is also called family of procreation, and consanguineous family which is also called family of orientation.

One can also classify families into nuclear, extended and joint types based on the way they are organised.

The nuclear family consists of a married couple and their children. The extended family is commonly defined as the nuclear family plus all kinds belonging to either side, living together. It may be pointed out that a consanguineous family implies ties of blood.’