Extended family

Extended family

The term extended family has several distinct meanings. In modern Western cultures dominated by nuclear family constructs, it has come to be used generically to refer to grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, whether they live together within the same household or not.[1] However, it may also refer to a family unit in which several generations live together within a single household. In some cultures the term is used synonymously with consanguineous family.

In an extended family, parents and their children's families often live under a single roof. This type of joint family often includes multiple generations in the family. In India, the family is a patriarchal society, with the sons' families often staying in the same house.

In the joint family setup the workload is shared among the members, often unequally. The women are often housewives and cook for the entire family. The patriarch of the family (often the oldest male member) lays down the rules and arbitrates disputes. Other senior members of the household baby sit infants in case their mother is working. They are also responsible in teaching the younger children their mother tongue, manners and etiquette.

The house often has a large reception area and a common kitchen. Each family has their own bedroom. The members of the household also look after each other in case a member is ill.



It has often been presumed that extended family groups sharing a single household enjoy certain advantages, such as a greater sense of security and belonging due to sharing a wider pool of members to serve as resources during a crisis, and more role models to help perpetuate desired behavior and cultural values. However, it should be noted that even in cultures where adults are expected to leave home after marriage to begin their own nuclear-based households, the extended family often forms an important support network offering similar advantages. Particularly in working-class communities, grown children tend to be establish their own households within the same general area as their parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. These extended family members tend to gather often for family events and to feel responsible for helping and supporting one another, both emotionally and financially.[2]

While contemporary families may be considered more mobile in general than in the past, sociologists find that this has not necessarily resulted in the disintegration of extended family networks. Rather, technological aids such as the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook are now commonly used to retain contact and maintain these family ties.[3]

Particularly in the case of single-parent households, it can be helpful for extended family members to share a single household in order to share the burden of meeting expenses. On the other hand, sharing a household can present a disadvantage depending on the sizes and number of families involved, particularly when only a few members shoulder most of the responsibility to meet expenses for the family's basic needs.[4]

Around the world

In many cultures, such as in those of many of the Southern Europeans, Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans, Latin Americans, and Pacific Islanders, extended families are the basic family unit. Cultures in which the extended family is common are generally collectivistic cultures.[citation needed]

Australian Aborigines are another group for whom the concept of family extends well beyond the nuclear model. Aboriginal immediate families include aunts, uncles and a number of other relatives who would be considered "distant relations" in the context of the nuclear family. Aboriginal families have strict social rules regarding who they can marry. Their family structure incorporates a shared responsibility for all tasks.[citation needed]

Where families consist of multiple generations living together, the family is usually headed by the oldest man. More often than not, it consists of grandparents, their sons and their son's families.

Hindu joint family

A joint Hindu family otherwise called a "Hindu Undivided Family" [HUF] consists of all persons lineally descended from a common ancestor, and includes their wives and unmarried daughters. A daughter ceases to be a member of her father's family on marriage and becomes a member of her husband's family. The joint and undivided family is the normal condition of Hindu society. An undivided Hindu family is ordinarily joint not only in estate, but also in food and worship. The existence of joint estate is not an essential prerequisite to constitute a joint family. A family that does not own any property may, nevertheless, be joint. Where there is joint estate, and the members of the family become separate in estate, the family ceases to be a joint family. Mere severance in food and worship does not operate as a separation. Businesses carried out by Hindu joint families in India are governed by the Hindu Law, where the liability of the entire business is borne out by the oldest surviving male member, who is the Manager of the family and is the head of family and is also the head of the business of the Hindu Undivided Family by default. He is called "Karta".

Recent trend in the United States

Per results of a study by Pew Research Center in 2010 approximately 50 million (nearly one in six) Americans, including rising numbers of seniors, live in households with at least two adult generations, and often three. The main reasons cited for this shift are increase in unemployment and slumped housing prices and arrival of new immigrants from Asian and South American countries.[5] The increase in the number of multigenerational households has created complex legal issues, such as who in the household has authority to consent to police searches of the family home or private bedrooms.[6]

Complex family

'Complex family' is a generic term for any family structure involving more than two adults. The term can refer to any extended family or to a polygamy of any type. It is often used to refer to the group marriage form of polygamy.

See also


  1. ^ Andersen, Margaret L and Taylor, Howard Francis (2007). Sociology: Understanding a diverse society. p. 396 ISBN 0495007420.
  2. ^ Browne, Ken (2011). Introduction to Sociology. p. 107 ISBN 0745650082.
  3. ^ Browne, Ken (2011). Introduction to Sociology. p. 107 ISBN 0745650082.
  4. ^ Pillitteri, Adele (2009). Maternal and Child Health Nursing: Care of the Childbearing and Childrearing Family. p. 42 ISBN 1582559996.
  5. ^ Surge in Multigenerational Households, U.S. News (Mar. 21, 2010).
  6. ^ When is a Parent's Authority Apparent? Reconsidering Third Party Consent Searches of an Adult Child's Private Bedroom and Property, Criminal Justice, Vol. 24, pp. 34–37, Winter 2010.

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