Family Types – How they are classified and characteristics of each

We explain what the different types of families are, the characteristics of each one and how they have changed over time.

Types of family
The family provides the young individual with a material, social and affective starting point.

What are the types of family?

A family is called group of individuals linked to each other by consanguineous, or legal connections OR couple ties, who decide to live together and establish formal and long-lasting kinship ties.

Family plays a vital role in understanding human society, fulfilling the basic functions in providing the young individuals a starting point, whether material, social and affective. A family is supposed to cover kids’ minimum material and emotional needs, teaching them to socialize with others by taking them inside and outside his family nucleus.

The family is the basis of society, since it is the minimum unit of social organization, the basic group in which human beings organize ourselves. Therefore it is of utmost importance for sociology and anthropological studies.

The latter have shown over time that the category of “family”, that is, what is traditionally understood by family is not something natural or universal, but it is also subject to historical, cultural and even ideological conditions.

For this reason, the concept of family has in recent times been subject to revision and expansion, to build one that reflects the family diversity that exists in reality, that is, that reflects the many and varied ways of forming a family in the present of the XXI century. This is what we understand as types of families.

Before entering into the classification of families, we must distinguish between two fundamental considerations in this regard, which are not properly types of family, but rather compositional parts of a family.

  • The family nucleus, usually composed of parents and offspring, who live closely together.
  • The extended family, made up of other close relatives, such as uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc., who may or may not live together with the family nucleus.

The “typical” family

The “typical” family or traditional family is known as the family that responds to the most established and traditional parameters of the culture, and that It is made up of a father, a mother and a variable number of children (commonly between one and four). This family model has been considered throughout history as the only true one or at least as the ideal, although in itself it has also varied as times change.

Originally, the woman had to occupy a passive role in front of the authority of the man and had to stay at home to raise the children, while the father went out to work. Today these roles tend to be handled in a much more flexible way, thanks to the various social struggles for female equality and the modernization of family culture during the second half of the 20th century.

The single parent family

As the name implies, it is a family composed of a single parent, either the father or the mother, who lives with their children. This type of family should not be understood as a “broken” family, since there are many reasons why a parent is left alone in charge of the family, and they should not always be traumatic or cause for regrets. In that sense, we can talk about:

  • Cases of widowhood.
  • Divorce cases in which one of the former spouses does not remarry and does not have any relationship with the other.
  • Cases of single mothers, or (although less frequent) of single fathers.

Until the middle of the 20th century, divorce implied a stigma for ex-spouses, especially for women. Fortunately, this reality has changed over time.

The sole proprietorship

Similar to the single parent family, but without children, it is about a single individual who constitutes in himself his own family nucleus. It is what has traditionally been called “single person”, although it can also be the result of marital separations or other types of family division events.

The family with separated parents

It’s about the families whose parents separate or divorce, but do not renounce their participation in the children’s lives. In this way, each parent may even have their own family, but a “separate” family is maintained between them: a family that does not share the physical space of the home, but maintains its filial and affective ties despite the distance. That is, they are families of divorced parents.

The reconstituted family

Also known as a compound or assembled family, it occurs when one of the parents incorporates a child from a previous relationship into a new family, who joins the new nucleus despite not being a descendant of both parents. These “additional” children may come from families separated by divorce or widowhood, or from former single-parent families.

The homoparental family

In this case we are talking about a family with or without children, in which both spouses are of the same sex. That is, families of homosexual parents. Logically, these unions cannot conceive children biologically, but they can do so through adoption (depending on the legislation of each country) or incorporating descendants of any of the previous families of the spouses (as in the reconstituted family).

The adoptive family

The one who is composed of two parents and one or more children resulting from adoption or foster care, that is, in which the children are not the biological fruit of the parents’ union.

This, obviously, does not mean that they are less their children, nor that they cannot expect from that family all the love, support and benefits that are expected from a “typical” family. Quite the contrary: adoptive families are usually the result of full conviction and desire to have children, rather than unforeseen or accidental pregnancies.

The DINK or DINKY family

Its name comes from the acronym in English for “double income, without children” (double income, no kids) or “double income, no children yet” (double income, no kids yet). Obviously, it is about couples generally young, who renounce parenthood and motherhood momentarily or permanently, that is, from families without children.

These families can be as happy as any other, and they should not be seen as an “incomplete” or “defective” family, since there are thousands of happy reasons why a couple prefers not to have children.