Not so long ago, 90% of all people in European countries, when asked for a definition of “family” would have answered: father – mother –child/children, possibly including close relatives.
Today the answers diverge, not only within one country but also between countries, depending on the pace of change, past traditions and personal experiences. Almost all conceivable constellations in which human (and not human) beings interact in private life may be involved, besides the “classic triad”: single mothers; a double divorced couple with children from various partners; 2 old ladies with their canary pet, a 3-generation family living under one roof; a homosexual couple with or without children, etc. Today new family forms evolve besides traditional forms with the “network family” as for example in Denmark as an advanced model in late modern societies.
We suggest defining “family” in the first place as a two unit (which will in itself be different from the “classic triad”) consisting of parents and children and in the second place specifying or altering the definition and meaning/ideology according to empirical givens.
With state support declining in many European countries, the family as a social unit is burdened with many new tasks in supporting young people on their way to adulthood. That creates new forms of inequality (see also parenthood and negotiation). (MdBR)
Matthijs, K. & Troost, A. van den (eds.) (1998) The Family: contemporary perspectives and challenges. Leuven: Leuven University Press.
Myers-Walls, J.A. & Somlai, P. (eds.) (2001) Families as Educators for Global Citizenship. Aldershot: Ashagate.
Biggart, A. & Kovacheva, S. (2006 i.p.) Social Change, Family Support and Young Adults in Europe. In du Bois-Reymond, M. & Chisholm (eds.): Modernisation of Youth Transitions in Europe. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
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