Family is a social institution organised to meet certain essential societal needs. It is a group consisting of parents, with or without children and relatives, united by bonds of love and affection and sharing common social activities.

According to Maclver and Page, “Family is a group defined by sex relationship sufficiently precise and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.”

According to K. Davis, “Family is a group of persons whose relations to one another are based upon consanguinity and who are therefore kin to one another.”

In the view of Elliot,” Family is the biological social unit composed of husband, wife and children.”

Types of Family:


Sociologists have taken different factors as the basis for the classification of family.

1. On the basis of marriage:

On the basis of marriage, family has been classified into three major types:

(a) Monogamous family:

A monogamous family is composed of one man and one woman. In this type of family a man cannot marry more than one wife at a time. It is regarded as an ideal form of family. It minimises emotional and psychological conflict.


(b) Polygynous family:

In this type of family one man marries more than one woman at a time and lives with them in the same house. In this type of family various arrangements are made to adjust the need of many wives.

(c) Polyandrous family:

Polyandrous family is composed of one woman and many men. In this type of family one woman marries many men and lives with them and she is shared by them by turns. The Pandava family is the example of polyandrous family.

2. On the basis of residence:

On the basis of residence family can be classified into following three type:


(a) Patrilocal family:

In this type of family after marriage, the wife goes and lives in the family of her husband. Her husband occupies a central position and plays a dominant role.

(b) Matrilocal family:


In the matrilocal family after marriage the husband goes and lives in the family of his wife. It is also known as a wife dominated family.

(c) Bilocal:

In some societies the couple have a choice. They may live with the parents of either the groom or the bride. This is known as bilocal residence.

3. On the basis of ancestry or descent:

By which an individual’s blood relatives are determined is known as the rules of descent or ancestry. On the basis of ancestry or descent family can be classified into two:


(a) Patrilineal family:

In this type of family the ancestry is determined on the basis of male line or the father. In other words, the family where the father is the centre of authority is considered as the patrilineal family, regarded as the best type of family.

(b) Matrilineal family:

In this type of family mother is the centre of authority. The rights and privileges are handed down by mother to her daughter.

4. On the basis of authority:

On the basis of authority family is classified into two:


(a) The patriarchal family:

Patriarchal family or a joint family is directly ruled by the eldest married male member or the father. In this family father is regarded as the head or authority and possesses all powers. The children are known by the name of their father. This type of family was found among the Romans and Aryans of India.

(b) Matriarchal family:

In this type of family the authority rests with the female head. The mother is the owner of property and rules over the family. The female members alone have the right to succeed to property in a matriarchal family.

5. On the basis of size:

On the basis of size, family is classified into two types-:

(a) Nuclear family:

The size of nuclear family is very small. It consists of father, mother and their unmarried children. It is regarded as the ideal form of family.

(b) Joint family:

The size of joint family is very large. It is formed by large number of members. Joint family is composed of father, mother, their sons, the son’s wife, and so on. The members of joint family belong to several generations. In this family the eldest male member is the head of family.