What Exactly Is a “Family” Today?
Sat, April 10, 2021

What Exactly Is a “Family” Today?

How does one define a “normal family?” Oftentimes or traditionally, a family is described as a group of people living together under one roof and made up of a man and woman married through either church or civil rights and their biological children as a result of the consummation of the marriage / Photo by: Evgeny Atamanenko via Shutterstock

 

How does one define a “normal family?” Oftentimes or traditionally, a family is described as a group of people living together under one roof and made up of a man and woman married through either church or civil rights and their biological children as a result of the consummation of the marriage. Generally, people believe that what makes a family or what keeps the family together are the children, biological relationships, love, and support, as well as sharing the same home. For most of us, a family will not be complete if one or more of these elements are absent. But, in today’s milieu, what makes a family, and what holds a family together, may not always be the same for everyone and can be dependent on a specific family situation.

 

The Official Definition

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016), as explained by Relationships Australia, an organization providing relationship support services for individuals, families, and communities, a family is “a group of two or more people that are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who usually live together in the same household.”

The ABS also revealed that the profile of families in Australia is commonly characterized as having the traditional married couple, with 5.7 million of them from a total of 8.7 million households. Meanwhile, 14% is comprised of one-parent families, and 2% as the “other” kind of family, which is neither a couple relationship nor a parent-child relationship. The bureau also found that merely 44% of couple families had dependents living them, with this number expected to drop in the coming years forecasted for 2023 and 2029. The number of families without children is becoming more prevalent.

In modern Australia as well as in many other countries, the “traditional” or “nuclear” family unit composed of a mother, a father, and one or two children is no longer the usual case. In fact, in most of the world today, this is no longer how we think or define a regular family. Relationships Australia explains that the concept of family and all of its dynamics naturally transition into different family forms over time wherein trends of divorce, remarriage, and blended families are continuously increasing. A 2016 Australian census found that 8.3% of households contained extended family members. There were also non-traditional family households without a biological parent or parental authority and figure, without a sibling, or without a grandparent. In the same year, 43% of families were with children under the age of 13.

In modern Australia as well as in many other countries, the “traditional” or “nuclear” family unit composed of a mother, a father, and one or two children is no longer the usual case / Photo by: Robert Kneschke via Shutterstock

 

The Family Today

The same Australian census found that there were almost six million families, 5 million more than in 2011, and with the numbers expected to increase to nine million by 2036, growing at a rate of 47%. The number of families is expected to increase due to the expanding description of what makes a family. Different and varying household situations are being included in the description of a family, such as those that are cohabiting (non-married couples) or blended families (couples with children from different families). 

One in four Australians lives in single-person houses, and this number is expected to increase over the years. Characteristics and profiles of people having families are also changing—people who plan to marry, have kids at an older age, and concentrate on their career life. Additionally, the number of same-sex parented families is also growing alongside society’s growing acceptance of them. As the Australian Institute of Family Studies shared, children raised in same-sex parent households do just as well as those raised in a traditional family setup. Carers, whether foster carers to children or non-biological parents, are also included in the definition of the family, with 2.7 million Australian households in 2015 composed of carers.

In a survey involving respondents between the ages of 19 and 60, Relationships Australia found that the definition of families among the age groups and even gender varies. Males (45%) were more likely than females (38%) to describe their family as a nuclear family with one or more parents and children living in the same residence. Moreover, children under the age of 19 years old were more likely to describe their family in the same way versus respondents aged over 60 years old, who report the family situation as being a combination and broad mix of family types and definitions.

Given today’s sentiments, defining what a real family is will not produce one correct answer. There are certain qualities of what makes a family that surface from generation to generation, and these make such a family as the norm. As each individual in the family grows, what they define as a family changes and evolves with their current situation. What is known as the “traditional family” today can become something of an oddity in the future as relationships evolve and society moves on from one concept to another.

Given today’s sentiments, defining what a real family is will not produce one correct answer. There are certain qualities of what makes a family that surface from generation to generation / Photo by: Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock