In human context, a family is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children.

Extended from the human “family unit” by affinity, economy, culture, tradition, honour, and friendship are concepts of family that are metaphorical, or that grow increasingly inclusive extending to nationhood and humanism.

There are also concepts of family that break with tradition within particular societies, or those that are transplanted via migration to flourish or else cease within their new societies. As a unit of socialisation and a basic institution key to the structure of society, the family is the object of analysis for sociologists of the family.

Genealogy is a field which aims to trace family lineages through history. In science, the term “family” has come to be used as a means to classify groups of objects as being closely and exclusively related. In the study of animals it has been found that many species form groups that have similarities to human “family”-often called “packs.”


Features of Family

Family influences the entire life of an individual and maintains the stability of society. Capable of endless variations, family has shown ‘remarkable continuity and persistence through ages, revealing some distinctive features. It is a part of all social institutions nearly universally, having existed in all societies across all stages of historical development.

Family has an emotional basis, providing for love, care, security and support to all members. Its small size facilitates interaction among members. It is a closed group, i.e., membership is through birth or marriage only.

Providing the earliest social environment, it has significant formative influence over the character and personality of members. It is the nucleus of social organisation in all societies-simple or complex. Members in a family have unlimited responsibility towards each other. Family is regulated by society through social taboos and legal sanctions like rules of marriage and legitimacy of children.


Functions of family:

Family performs certain fundamental and unique functions for society as well as individuals that are mostly inseparable. It performs the sexual regulation function by allowing husband and wife sexual access to each other and, at the same time, prohibiting sexual indulgence out of marriage. Family also has the reproductive function of producing children whom society accepts as legitimate.’

The most important function of family is socialisation of children during which the child learns about norms and value of society, family living and social interaction, and becomes aware about various roles. After this process of primary socialisation has crystallized in the person, family works to stabilize the adult personality.

Societies depend on family to provide for emotional security, love, care and companionship to old and young members. Family provides a protective environment to the child facilitating his/her overall growth.