In my opinion, defining the term “family” is extremely difficult. Still, the definition provided in the text by Turnbull et al. highlights certain important points (6). First of all I like the way it emphasizes the voluntary basis of family relationships. Naturally, we do not choose our biological parents. A century ago, we would not be allowed to choose our spouses either. Nowadays one may say without any doubt that the family includes the people we regard as close ones.
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In the real life, people may be connected with blood relations but stay very distant. At the same time, those who are not related legally or biologically may consider each other to be close. Specific situations should be taken into account. For example, orphans may have no parents but still have people who they regard to be part of their families. Gay couples that live in countries where homosexual marriages are not legalized still regard each other as a family without being married officially.
At the same time, the second part of the definition is also significant. It is obvious that to be regarded as a part of the family, a person needs to fulfill certain functions. The functions of a family are another complex issue, but it seems to me that it is common for us to expect family to be supportive.
From my own experience, it is the lack of support and understanding that drives relatives apart. On the other hand, when a person becomes especially close and offers support, respect, and love, you begin to regard him or her as a part of your life and, possibly, family.
It appears, indeed, that living together, being officially married or blood-related is not necessary to become a family. All of these factors may be a by-product of family relations, but in the end it is the perception that matters. It is not uncommon for young people to leave the house of their parents, but that does not mean that these people stop being a family.
Being married, significant as it may be, does not necessarily define a family, especially a happy one. There are abusive husbands and cheating wives, distant parents, and ungrateful children. The relationships between siblings can also be strained, and the history of royal lines is a good example of it.
Nowadays families are diverse in their forms, which reflects the numerous types of human interactions. I suppose that this diversification is connected to the promotion of the freedom of choice. We may not be able to choose the biological parents, but we may choose those we regard as a family. It does not mean of course that growing distant with blood relatives is not a tragedy. Many of the deviations mentioned can be viewed as a problem.
It is understandable why certain family norms are being promoted. For example, the way Christian religion supports the image of motherhood could be regarded as beneficial, and in a way it could improve the problem of children being abandoned at birth. Still, not all of the variations mentioned above are to be fought. For example, the way the same Christian religion describes homosexual relationships as a sin is intolerant and inhumane.
To conclude, the situations in which people find themselves are different, and families can take various forms. This is what makes defining the term “family” a problem. Still, in order to describe the universal image of a family, we do not need to take all the possibilities into account. If we put it really simply, a family is the people you regard as your family. Most certainly, they deserve this status, and, hopefully, they feel the same way about you.
Turnbull, Ann, Rutherford Turnbull, Elizabeth Erwin, Leslie Soodak and Karrie Shogren. Families, Professionals, and Exceptionality. 6th ed. 2011. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson. Print.