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Family Definition with Classification Essay

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1294
  • Category: Family

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The definition of “family” may differ from one person to the next. Even the various dictionaries have multiple definitions for the simple yet ever so complex word. The Oxford English Dictionary’s etymology of the word family comes from the Middle French famile, beginning in 1337 with family being defined as a group of people living under the same roof, household, in 1442-44 included a group of people related by blood, 1580 a group of people related by blood or marriage and living under the same roof, 1658 a group of people who share a common philosophy and in 1676, a group of genera of plants or animals which share certain general traits (Simpson and Weiner). In this paper I will endeavor to cover the many and diverse definitions of family. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate and define my own definition of family and to discuss how my definition has changed over the years.

The United States legal definition of “family” is one or more persons occupying a single dwelling unit, provided that unless all members are related by blood or marriage, no such family shall contain over five persons, but further provided that domestic servants employed on the premised may be housed on the premises without being counted as family or families. Many people will certainly disagree with this definition. Based on this legal definition, any persons living as roommates are considered a family. It also states that a family consists of blood or marriage, which is a more agreed upon definition. Although the United States Constitution has no clear definition or directly states “family” in any of its articles, there have been numerous court cases which question the definition (http://law.justia.com/constitution/us/amendment-14/33-family-relationships.html).

The courts have stated starting with Meyer and Pierce that the Constitution protects the sanctity of family because it is a deeply rooted institution in the Nation’s history and tradition. What would my definition of family be? I would define family in line with how it is defined by the Vanier Institute. People bound by responsibilities, marriage, blood, and includes pets (http://www.vanierinstitute.ca/definition of family). Many people who do not have children or are unable to have children consider their pet(s) to be family. I certainly consider our dog to be a part of our family and can understand how many other people feel the same way. My wife and I recently experienced the death of her fifteen year old beagle and believe me we are grieving for a family member.

We have taken in a rescue beagle/dachshund and he is helping us through this time with lots of love and has become our new “baby”. But, there are certainly people that would completely disagree with pet’s being included as family members. There is no right or wrong definition. To each and every person family has its own distinct meaning. Everyone will also have sub-classes of their own unique definition as well. There is immediate, extended and considered family. Your immediate family would be, in my opinion, your household. The extended family would be aunts, uncles, cousins and so on. Then the considered family would be lifelong friends that a person can identify with as if they were a brother or sister, aunt or uncle (Feldman).

Typical definitions of family, a mother, father, and children is rarely seen of late as compared to that of forty or fifty years ago. Divorce rate is higher than it has ever been in recent decades. With that being said a woman and her children or father and his children are no less a family than both parents being present. A family as described by Merriam-Webster would disagree (http://www.merriam-webster.com/medical/family). That definition states that a family is consists of two parents and children. I strongly disagree with their definition. Circumstances may prevent this portrayal of family from existing in today’s world in many cases with divorce, death and foster care. Unfortunately there are even many children that grow up without knowing their actual family. Being bounced back and forth between foster homes and state run facilities, many of these children would and do consider the kids in the “system” their family.

While writing and researching this paper I have had the opportunity to speak with my own family members and friends about what they believe family means. A close friend of mine told me that she believes the word family describes those who you feel connected to emotionally, who do not necessarily need to be related, but someone you trust and love. A co-worker described her idea of family to be those who are there for her through thick and thin that support her decisions and love her for herself, she feels many of her closest friends to be part of her “family”. Many of my friends are ex-military and they feel the people they served with to be an extended family that will be in their lives forever, the bonds and relationships formed during their years of service together created another definition of family for them.

My mother and father although divorced many years ago, tend to define family as “blood relation”, which I feel is not uncommon for their generation and they continue to try and keep track of all their living relatives. Whereas my definition of family has moved more to my immediate family, which includes grandparents, parents, my wife and her nuclear family. I feel attitudes towards what family means over the centuries is directly related to the advances in civilization and the ever changing technology in our lives. Whereas “families” all grew up in the same villages, towns or cities and spent their entire lives together, families today often are not only dispersed all over their own country, but the entire world due to a variety of reasons, that may include education, work or just adventure. We are so much more mobile today!

Researching my meaning of family also included rereading some of the chapters in my college Psychology textbook. “Psychology and your Life”. For me, it brought about more understanding and interesting insights. The older I get I realize just how much alike I am as many of my family members. Whether due to DNA or being raised by my mother, father and grandparents, these influences have made me the person I am today. My friends growing up and my grown friends and coworkers still continue to shape my ever evolving attitudes regarding family. Our American culture has shaped my family and will continue to, we are proud of what we have accomplished as a country and people. We continue to grow and accept diversity in our definition of family (Feldman).

The towns and states I lived in, the schools I’ve attended, my church’s and sports teams, my country and my culture all have had a major impact on how I feel and continue to grow regarding family. My friends growing up and my grown friends and coworkers still continue to shape my ever evolving attitudes toward my definition of family. Have I rambled on too much? I hope this short essay on the definition of family has shown you just how difficult it can be to decide on what one’s meaning of family is. The more you think about it, your opinion will grow and change at least it has for me. We start as children with our caregivers, be it parents or guardians and grow to often include everyone that crosses our lives and touches us in a meaningful way. Where will our culture and the ever changing world lead us next?

MLA Works Cited

“Definition of Family – Vanier Institute of the Family.” Definition of Family – Institute of the Family. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2014.

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