At first blush, the definition seems like an easy answer. Merriam Webster dictionary broadly defines it as a basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents raising one or more children. This definition is too restrictive as it excludes grandparents, and a long list of others typically considered as part of a family. Under a Christian definition a family is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption. That’s too large since it would technically include everyone from Adam and Eve. The definition used in this website is a group of people that lived together at some time with the majority sharing a blood line connection, and each considered the others as part of a family.
B. Historical Significance.
From the early days of Homosapiens until today, the family has been at the core of the society. The ancient Greeks believed that the Gods protected the family group, and that injuring any family member was a sin. Most Germanic tribes believed that the family took priority over all other segments of the society. The family was sacred in the ancient Chinese culture. Older generation received utmost respect by each of the Japanese Dynasties. The Egyptians believed that family were reunited in the afterlife. The ancient Mayans considered the family formed the soul of society. The Inca civilization believed that a family was vital to their society. The Norse era or Viking Age, the family was all those who lived in the same longhouse and worked the same farm, and was the reason for their health and strength. The Romans considered the family as the foundation for the society headed by the oldest living male. The Maori of New Zealand had no written language and that their history and traditions were passed down between family members.
C. Religious Significance.
All religions consider the family as the quintessential feature that made humans worthy of protection by supreme being(s). Although the Buddhist religion holds the family in high esteem, the goal is for every individual to reach a state of enlightenment.
Most State laws in the United States pass laws relating to marriage, adopting, divorce and child custody and called these laws “Family Law.” China has laws covering marriage, divorce, child custody, adoption, and family rights. The German laws relating to families are resolved by grand family courts. The Federal Family laws in Russia reduce conflicts and increase consistency among its 46 oblasts, 22 republics, and 9 Krais.
E. Family Size.
The average family size in the United States in 2019 was 3.14 people. The average size in France is 2.3, Germany-2.1, Brazil -3.1, India-4.8, China 3.0, Italy -2.3, England -2.4, Russia – 2.7, Mexico 4.3, Canada – 4.2, Peru 4, Greece 2.8, Australia – 2.7, and Japan 2.5. In Italy extended families often live together with the mother being at the center or the matriarch.
F. Family Customs.
In China a celebration is held when each child turns 100 days old. In the Netherlands turning 50 is celebrated. German children receive a large paper cone filled with supplies on their first day of school. In Vietnam everyone’s birthday is celebrated on New Years Day. In Denmark a flag is flown outside their house to announce a birthday. In France the last Sunday in May is the Day of Mothers and the traditional gift is a cake in the shape of a flower. In Mexico whenever a girl turns 15 there is a celebration that includes dinner and dancing while she wears a full-length ball gown. In Indonesia a married couple is not allowed to go to the bathroom for 3 days. In the western culture, children place their baby teeth under their pillow when they go to bed and a tooth fairy visits that night to take the tooth and leaves some money. The Navajo Native Americans celebrates when a girl becomes a teenager by having athletic competition to show the strength of womanhood. Almost every culture has a custom of honoring the family.
G. Family Surnames.
Sometimes the surname indicated a trade. A musician might take the last name of Fiddler or Hornblower, a jeweler might use Goldsmith, a baker would use Baker as a last name, etc. Some in the military would adopt names like Knight, Archer, Bowman, etc. In Italy many surnames indicates the birth place. Some surnames were based on a personality trait, such as stern, jolly, quiet, etc. Some were based on a physical attribute such as long, little, big, etc.
Most of those traditional methods have given way to identification techniques such as taking on the husband’s last name. Although this makes genealogy far easier, it makes it simpler for the Internal Revenue Service to find you.
H. Life Expectancies.
This is one of the most dramatic factors proving that family life is better than solitary single life. There have been hundreds of studies over the last 150 years that have showing that marriage and family life has a direct and consistent health benefit. A man’s average life expectancy is 17 years longer than a single man. The Single man has a 32 percent chance of death from unhealthy conditions over the family man; and the single man has a much higher risk of depression. Family men have are less likely to smoke, less likely to be alcoholics, and less likely to adopt risky behaviors. A study of 27 thousand cases, the single man was more likely to get advanced cancer. Family men have a smaller risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Married women had a death rate (569/100,000) of about one half of the death rate of widows (1,482/100,000). The woman’s death rate of divorcees (1,096) was lower than never-married women (1,166). However, when the wife is a cougar and marries a man 7-9 years younger, her life expectancy is 20% shorter while the younger man’s life expectancy increases. It’s as though the older woman is giving some of her years to her younger husband.
Not only do married people live longer than singles, the gap between the groups is growing. Between 2010 and 2017, the death rates of married people when down an additional 7 percent over the single counter-parts
In a study in 1858 the longest life expectancy were bank officers (68-76), followed by agriculturists. Bringing up the bottom, i.e. the lowest life expectancy were teachers (30-35). In 2015 the longest life expectancies were among those occupations having the highest family percentage (farmers, accountants, clergy. lawyers). Those having the lowest life expectancy (excluding high risk jobs such as ocean fishermen, coal miners, pilots, etc.) had the lowest family relationships (sports, workaholics, cleaners, etc.).