Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
The family is a basic social unit that exists in every culture, although its structure varies widely. The main purpose of families, which are usually created by marriage, is for PARENTING children.
The term “nuclear family” refers to two married adults and their children. It has been the main family unit of Western society since the Industrial Revolution. Recent social changes, such as divorce, have meant that single-parent families are becoming more common.
In most societies, especially in preindustrial, traditional communities, it is normal for a wide circle of relatives from one or both sides of the family to live together in the same household. This type of family is known as an extended family.
Most societies have an elaborate religious ritual to celebrate marriage. Some couples may choose to reject this tradition and marry in a civil ceremony. Others may choose to create a family outside marriage.
Parents and children, whether united by birth or by adoption, share a unique bond. Parenting means providing food, shelter, and emotional support for children, as well as preparing them for a role in adult society. Sometimes children are cared for by their legal guardians.
Children enter the world without the skills or ability to take care of themselves. Parents must protect and nurture children during their early years as they develop and grow. In later years, parents lay down guidelines for behavior, so children learn how to be responsible for themselves. As children grow older, parents continue to support them, both emotionally and financially, as they take their first tentative steps toward adulthood.