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Defining Family Essay

1180 words - 5 pages

In Canada the definition of family is as diverse as the ethnic, racial and religious make up of the country. Webster's dictionary (1994) defines family as: 1. a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children, a: two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place. 2: all the members of a household under one roof. 3: a group of persons sharing common ancestry. Lineage, especially distinguished lineage. 4: a locally independent organized crime unit, as of the Cosa Nostra. 5: a) a group of like things; a class. b) a group of individuals derived from a common stock: the family of human beings. What is the definition of a Canadian family?There is no simple answer to this question. The definition is variable and determined externally by societal changes over time. In this brief essay there will be a discussion about the problems associated with defining a family in Canada. In addition, examples from different cultural backgrounds will be used in an attempt to illustrate the complex nature of the family.As stated by Baker (2001) the way we define our own family doesn't necessarily generalize well to other families. How we behave, express values, and morals are very culturally dependent. To access others cultures through our own "culture colored" glasses is not only subjective but also judgmental. The family is probably one of the most ancient institutions around, yet it is still open to influences of changes that occur over time.Defining the family 3Baker (2001) claims that theses changes to society have led to the development of public discourse about family behavior norms.What is "family"? The definition of family depends on who answers the questionDefinitions of family take into account the structure, function and legality of the unit for its group members and for society as a whole. For example, social scientists' (anthropologists) state a culture's biological and marital kinship rules and patterns of reciprocal obligations define family while Structure-functionalists say the patterns of reciprocal obligations among people and between structures of people and the greater society define family (Baker, 2001). Situationalists focus on social, cultural and physical forces beyond the individual's control which may compel individuals to assume family-related role behaviors conversely psychoanalysts focus on the individual's stage of development and unconscious needs in defining family (Baker, 2001). In addition, economists focus on production and consumption activities; the family is a production and consumption unit. As expressed in Baker (2001) the state tends to define family in structure-functional terms. From all the various alternative definitions of family, the state selects portions from each to create authoritative and legal definitions of family. Thus, the definitions of family are based on the needs of the...

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