The Salient Characteristics of a Family:
The following may be regarded as the twelve salient characteristics of a family.
The institution of a family has existed in all societies, past and present. Every human being belongs to one family or the other.
2. Mating relationship:
A family comes into existence when a mating relationship is established between a man and a woman. Such a relationship may be a short one or one which endures for a lifetime. When the marital relations break up, the family disintegrates.
The mating relationship is established through a form of marriage, which may take one of many forms. It may be monogamous or polygamous; it may be a love marriage or an arranged one.
4. Fixed habitation:
Every family has a more or less fixed place of habitation, a home where the essential functions of a family are carried out.
5. Financial or economic provision:
Some kind of financial or economic provision is made in every family, so that the basic requirements of the family and their economic needs may be met. The head of the family generally meets the economic needs of all the members of the family.
6. System of nomenclature:
Every family is known by a name, usually referred to as its ‘surname’ (as in India) or ‘family name’ (as in USA). Depending on the type of family, descent may be reckoned through the male line or through the female line.
7. Closed group:
A family is a closed group, where membership is open only through birth, marriage or adoption.
8. Limited size:
Since a family is the nucleus of all other social groups, it is limited in size. In fact, it is the smallest kinship group of all human groups.
9. Emotional basis:
The bonds which tie a family together are blood relationship and mutual affection. Such ties are based on love and affection and not on reason. Members of a family share their pleasures and pains together.
10. Sense of security and responsibility:
A family provides full security to all its members and every member of the family bears responsibility towards the other members.
11. Educative role:
As the earliest period of every human being is spent in his family, it is here that a person learns his earliest and most fundamental lessons in socialisation.
12. Permanence coupled with change:
Although as an institution, the family is permanent and universal, as an association, it undergoes constant changes caused by births and deaths.