What Is a Family? 5 Types of Family in Practice

What are the types of family? The family is the basic unit of society. A family consists of two or more people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption.

In many societies and legal systems, families are the most important social institution and the basic social unit.

In most cultures, the family is the principal institution for the socialization of children. As the basic unit for raising children, anthropologists generally classify most human societies based on the existence or absence of a family structure.

The Term “Family”

The word “family” may be used broadly to mean just parents and their children (as in a nuclear family) or more narrowly to mean parents and close relatives (as in an extended family).

The word “family” may also refer to members of a wider group such as cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents and grandchildren.

Societies with patrilineal descent groups are characterized by male-dominated families in which sons inherit property from their fathers.

Societies with matrilineal descent groups are characterized by female-dominated families where daughters inherit property from their mothers.

Societies with ambilineal descent groups typically have equal inheritance rights between sons and daughters and neither sex inherits more than the other.

Types of Family

There are many different types of family. The most common type of family is a nuclear family, which consists of a mother, father and their children. Other types of families include extended families and single-parent families.

Nuclear family (two married parents and children)

The nuclear family, or the couple and their children, is probably the most common type of family. This type has evolved in recent years to include same-sex parents, as well as single-parent households.

Typically, couples have a shared history of education and employment; however, it is now common for some households to have two working parents who are both employed full-time.

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Nuclear families are thought to be a more stable environment for the raising of children than other types of family arrangements because many studies show that children with married parents tend to do better academically than those with divorced or never-married parents (Bramlett & Mosher).

In addition to being beneficial for academic success, there’s also evidence that nuclear families bring about better financial success and mental health benefits than other types (Bramlett & Mosher).

Single parent family

As you may already know, single parent families are those with only one parent. Single parents may be widowed, divorced, or never married; they may be raising children alone because of the death of a spouse or partner, or because of a divorce.

It’s important to note that having only one biological parent does not necessarily mean that a child is growing up in a single-parent family.

In fact, according to recent reports, it’s estimated that out of the 14 million single-parent families in the U.S., only 5 percent are actually headed by lone fathers and 95 percent are headed by lone mothers.

Additionally, it’s also common for people to choose to raise their children as single parents. While this choice can certainly come with financial challenges – for example, a lone parent has no other partner to help pay for childcare – it can also provide an opportunity for increased independence and enhanced self-sufficiency.

Reconstituted family or stepfamily (blended family)

A reconstituted family, or stepfamily, is a combination of one or more parents and their children. In some cases, one parent may have custody of the children while the other visits them on occasion.

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In other cases, both parents may be present and caring for their children together. The key feature that distinguishes this type of family from a traditional nuclear family is the existence of stepparents and/or stepchildren in the household.

Extended family

Extended families include members beyond a nuclear family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. are all considered extended family. Extended families are commonly found in cultures that value the importance of community.

For example, people in Latin America regularly include grandparents in their households and consider them part of the family unit when it comes to emotional support and raising children.

This can be beneficial because multiple sets of parents can take turns helping with childcare duties, which gives parents more time for themselves and other pursuits while maintaining close parenting relationships with their own children.


Half-siblings are siblings that share one biological parent. Half-siblings often come about when one or both of your parents have remarried.

It is important to include your half-sibling in family activities and events, as they may otherwise feel left out. Spending quality time with your half-sibling will let them know they are an important member of the family.

Half-siblings can be a valuable addition to the family dynamic, bringing different interests and hobbies into the mix – they might even teach you something new!

For example, you can learned how to knit from my stepbrother, who also can teach you how to play basketball.

There are several types of families out there

We all come from a variety of different families. Some families are conventional, with a married mom and dad, one or more kids, pets if possible, and maybe some grandparents in the mix.

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Other families have two moms or two dads who adopted some kids. There are also families where people live together but aren’t related by blood; the word for this is “found family,” since you don’t find many of these folks at a family reunion.

They can be seen at restaurants on Sundays though; it’s a good place to get started if you’d like to start your own found family!

And then there are blended families or step-families: households where someone has divorced and married an entirely new person and they brought their kids along with them as they became a whole new unit.

There are plenty of other types of families too – and there’s something special about each one of them!

The important thing is that everybody has some kind of family to call their own (or maybe they don’t want one, which is totally fine too!).

If you really think about it, we’re all just part of the greater human family anyway – we were all born into this world together.

So, be thankful for whatever type of familial arrangement you find yourself in; there’s always someone out there with less than what you have!


As we’ve learned from this article, a family is something that can be both defined by rigid rules or by more subjective means.

And there are many types of family. But the real question then comes down to this: what is a family for you? It’s something worth thinking about.

The truth is families come in all shapes in sizes, as do their definitions! Families are very diverse and all different types of family units can be just as loving and supportive as one another.