redefining the concept of “family”

After some on and off discussions about the concepts of family and family values, I decided to delve into the wide web and find out what is traditionally considered a family, how family values are defined and make an argument as to why those definitions are outdated. I mean, an online dictionary claims that the most widely used explanation of “family” is from the 19th century. It’s been 200 years, maybe it’s time to make the “non-traditional” the new “traditional”, especially when it is already dominating our society.

To begin with, it is more difficult to find one clear definition for the social concept of a family, as there are plenty definitions from various times and disciplines. Thus, several descriptions shall be offered. According to “a family” may be regarded as

  1. “a primary social group consisting of parents and their offsprings, the principal function of which is provision for its members”
  2. “ a social unit consisting of one or more adults together with the children they care for”
  3. “any group of persons closely related by blood, as parents, children, uncles, aunts, and cousins”

Some points seem to emerge – two or more adults, offsprings, shared household, blood relations. However, these are clearly old definitions and do not include many variations. For example, same gender families, couples who do not want to or cannot have offsprings, families living separately. The family of a man, woman, and children is an old concept which is still being pushed forward by media and politicians, who supposedly stand for traditional family.

The problem is that the so-called traditional definitions have been changing for ages and what was once considered a family may be a strange sight nowadays. For example, according to the Biblical texts a man who has raped a woman must marry her. The result – a man, a woman, and a child. Should be a traditional family, right? Not sure if such an idea would be widely accepted nowadays. Just as several wives, child abuse or slaves as part of the family.

I do not go against the states or society trying to protect the family, as the core social group, as everyone on this Earth is a part of some family – blood related or not, good and healthy relationships or not. However, when it is getting more and more difficult to define what a modern family is, the traditional definition unsurprisingly wins in both the public discourse and law-making.

Also, disclaimer! I do not have a legal solution or suggestion to the states, as that is not my goal. I believe that everyone’s rights should be protected, in a family or not. I can only offer my humble opinion.

The “family” is a social construct created by people, thus the same people should have the right to decide what family is to them and what it means. The “society” cannot tell that two men who have an adopted child or two people living together with three cats are not legit families.  If there is trust, consent, and strong emotional bonds between these people they are a family. They have mutually decided on this.

In my honest opinion

  • Family is not a career and does not have a goal – for example, bearing a child;
  • Family does not have to live under one roof;
  • Children are not a necessity to make a family;
  • Gender, religion, race should not be determinants of a family;
  • Family is a partnership between people.

Thus again, the state should not merely raise the importance of so-called traditional family values, but talk about the individuals, their human rights and moral values, as a whole in order not to “non-traditional” families that now are a majority and not an alternative or immorality.

As I am on the topic of the family values, it was the next definition I was somewhat conflicted about. Dictionary gave me this explanation:

  • “the moral and ethical principles traditionally upheld and transmitted within a family, as honesty, loyalty, industry, and faith”

Once again, some issues arise. What if the family is abusive and harassing towards each other? What is some members of family are extremely homophobic or racist and their values are filled with hateful notions?

Shouldn’t we talk about moral values instead of family values, as not in every family those ideals may be apparent? Families, even though from the outside looking traditional, may be harassing and discriminating.

Moral values of honesty, respect, humanness, equality should be taught by media, society, educational institutions, not only families. Family values are not personally defined, moral values and human rights, on the other hand are and should be universal.

I am sure that this thought piece will not change opinions of most of the people, but at least I wish for some discussion to happen.

I think it is the time to break the outdated concept of a “traditional family” and think about having lasting and healthy relationships with everyone around, blood related or not, legally-confined or not.


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