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The Family as the Basic Social Unit Essay

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Updated: Mar 26th, 2020


The term family has been applied differently by various scholars and people. Mostly, it has been used to connote social institutions, such as schools and organizations, or a community. Therefore, its definition depends on the context where it is used. This paper focuses on discussing the concept of family in relation to the social functions it plays. In addition, it discusses whether it is a right or it is typified by various responsibilities.

Definition of the term family

A family can be defined as a group of people who are related by blood, marriage, or adoption (Archard 134). It results from marriage, which is defined as the union between a man and a woman. Basically, it is made up of father, mother, and children. Other members could include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and nieces (Archard 135). As a basic element in bringing up children, anthropologists have categorized family organization into three.

According to Archard (136), matrifocal, which is composed of the mother and her siblings, is the first category. The second category is the nuclear family, which consists of mother, father, and children. The last category is the extended family. This comprises of the nuclear family, grandparents, nieces, nephews, uncles, and aunts. In socialization context, it is the basic social unit, and the term has been applied metaphorically to develop inclusive entities, such as societies and humanism (Archard 137).

Illustrations and argument about the topic

It is critical to note that a family could be headed by the opposite sex, or same sex (Bott and Spillius 78). In addition, the head of the family should be authoritative and a decision-maker with regard to the running of family matters. Many scholars have discussed family as both a social and a political institution (Bott and Spillius 79).

Furthermore, liberals, such as Archard (139), argue that the family is characterized by the roles and responsibilities that are evident in family privacy and the protection of intimacy. Archard (140) concludes that parents have duties of providing their children adequate life chances. The justification of a family is not by entitlement, but by the interests of family members and society’s expectations in which they coexist and become its productive members (Archard 141).

Arguably, both the parents and children are expected to play certain roles in the community. Children are obliged to respect their parents and other members of the society, while parents are required to take part in various activities in the community (Brecher158). In relation to the running of the family, each member has a role to play. For example, the children should obey their parents, while parents should discipline and provide for them. Nonetheless, a family could be viewed as a right.

The fact that International law provides for the right to marry and have a family makes it is a right. Every adult has the right to found a family (Strong and Cohen 102). However, Brecher (159) has rejected that adults are entitled to right to a family. In contrast to the right, the researcher says that parents have obligations, but not rights (Brecher 160).

It would be important to support Brecher and indicate that parents are obliged to be co-creators with God, play their roles responsibly toward their children, guide their children, and take the position of a parent. However, it is vital to underscore that the role of parents to act as parents is undermined by the fact that children’s morality prohibit priorities of parental concerns with regard to any respect (Strong and Cohen 106).

My opinions and/or philosophy about the concept family

In my opinion the definition of the term family, functions played by the family as a whole, and family members were considered. This is for the reason that, such a definition would give the reader ability to measure various forms, and understand its roles, and not beliefs. For example, care and love are viewed as the essential functions of the family. According to this approach, there are many contemporary disputes that concentrate on form.

Depending on the category, various roles would be expected to be played by each member. In my opinion, a family can be viewed as both a right and an institution that has responsibilities. Every mature person has a right to establish a family and get children. However, as it is provided in the UN Charter, the rights are accompanied by responsibilities (Bott and Spillius 85). This implies that after marrying, one would be required to increase the chances of life of his or her children.

It is the duty of parents to discipline their children. With regard to society’s expectations, the young would be expected to meet the moral standards of the community. Moreover, they are obliged to possess good moral values, such as courtesy, respect, chastity, and hospitality. Despite the obligations, children’s interests have been prioritized as aforementioned.

The parents should ensure that their children live decent and dignified lives. Bott and Spillius (89) contend that a family is typified by duties and responsibilities of each member. In addition, there are intimacy and love as stated by Bott and Spillius (92).


In conclusion, the family is the basic social unit that is characterized by various elements. There are members who make it. It is worth noting that the family is a right that is accompanied by duties of each member. There are community expectations of the family. However, it is imperative to indicate that the family perspective has changed. This change is attributed to continuity and change in many aspects of life.

Works Cited

Archard, David. “The Future of the Family.” Ethics and Social Welfare 6.2 (2012): 132-142. Print.

Bott, Elizabeth, and Elizabeth Spillius. Family and social network: Roles, norms and external relationships in ordinary urban families. London, United Kingdom: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Brecher, Bob. “The Family and Neoliberalism: Time to Revive a Critique.” Ethics and Social Welfare 6.2 (2012): 157-167. Print.

Strong, Bryan and Theodore Cohen. The marriage and family experience: Intimate relationships in a changing so ciety. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2013. Print.

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