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Important features of the Family | Characteristics of Family in Sociology


6 Main Characteristics of the Family

Some of the important features of family are as follows:

The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle is of the opinion that man is a social animal. He is never alone. A completely isolated person is unimaginable. He starts his day as a member of a group i.e. family. Hence family is the most important primary group among all human groups. 

No known society, ancient or modern, is free from the family system. The family has undergone many changes over time as Burgess and Locke put it 'from a hard and fast social structure or institution to a flexible relationship'.

However, the family as a unique social institution has no alternative. It is the basic unit of social organization. 

The family is the focal point of all social structure and still remains the most stable union and institution of human society. Society is a group of families. 

No society or civilization ever existed without the family. It plays a very important role in the development of personality of an individual and also in the process of socialization.

The word 'family' is derived from the Roman word 'famulus' which means servant. In Roman law the term referred to a group of producers and slaves and servants and members of common descent. 

Family is a small group consisting of father, mother and their children who are related to each other by kinship ties based on marriage, blood or adoption. 

Family is a biological unit consisting of parents and children. 


But the meaning of family can be better understood from the following definitions.

(1) According to MacIver. 

"The family is a group defined by sexual relations sufficiently precise and permanent to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children."

(2) According to Burgess and Locke, 

“Family is a group of persons united by ties of marriage, blood or adoption, consisting of the same family interacting and interacting with each other in their social roles of husband and wife, mother Doing is included. Father, son and daughter, brother and sister constitute a common culture."

(3) According to Kingsley Davis, 

"Family is a group of persons whose relations are related to each other, which are based on seclusion and who are, therefore, kin of others."

(4) According to Eliot and Merrill, 

“Family is an organic social unit consisting of husband, wife and children.”

(5) According to Ogburn and Nimkoff, 

“Family is a more or less durable association of husband and wife with or without children, either alone or between a man or a woman.”

(6) According to Claire, 

"Family is a system of relationships that exists between parents and children."


Important features of the family:

From the above discussions and definitions it can be deduced that family is identified through the following characteristics. 

MacIver and Page, the famous sociologists have mentioned about the following general characteristics of the family.

(1) A sexual intercourse:

A sexual relationship is an important precondition for the establishment of a family. When at that moment sex relationship is established between man and woman in the family. This sex relation of family is known as intercourse relation. Without which no family can be formed. 

Since the need for sex is the most important need of a human being for this man and woman enter into sexual relations and family is formed. This sexual intercourse can be temporary or permanent.

But some form of sexual intercourse must exist between man and woman. When this sexual relationship ends, the family breaks up.

(2) A Form of Marriage:

A form of marriage is another important feature of the family. Because in one form or the other, the sexual relationship is established. This form of marriage may be simple or complex or may be monogamy, polygamy or group marriage or any other form. Every family follows a particular form of marriage.


(3) Some rules of mate selection:

Every family follows certain rules or procedures by which it establishes the matrimonial relationship by which the family is formed. This process of selection of parents can be done by the parents themselves or can be done by the concerned persons. This rule can be endogamous or exogamous.

(4) A system of nomenclature:

Each and every family identifies itself with a name. It also has a naming system. The new member of the family takes the name of the family in which he identifies himself. Different families have descendants in different ways. Mainly it can be through male line or female line. In other words, descent can be traced through father, mother or both. Accordingly the lineage is known as patrilineal, matrilineal or bilineal.

(5) An economic provision:

Each and every family should have an economic provision to meet the various economic needs of its members. It is generally the duty of the head of the family to do some profession to earn money and thus meet the economic needs of its members.


(6) A common place of residence:

Every family needs a common house to live in. Because without it the family cannot fulfill the task of raising its child. There are different rules for establishing residence. After marriage the wife may live in her husband's ancestral house or reside in her own ancestral house called patrilineal and matriarchal residence respectively or both may establish a separate house called Neolithic residence.