What Is A Family?

I just started a new semester at the law school (technically, over half-done!). I was lucky enough to squeeze into Professor Black’s Family Law survey. On the first day of the class, Professor Black asked one of my colleagues to define family. My colleague responded by saying that a good start to the definition of the family is all of the biological kinfolk, such as, ancestors and issue. For the information of the reader, an ancestor is any of the generations that came before and led to the current generation; for example: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. An issue is any following generations that the current generation caused to be in existence. For example, kids, adopted kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and so forth and so on. In my opinion, his response is interesting because biology is a strong hard line to draw in a definition of family, however, the definition of family has changed drastically over history and I think that biology is too narrow a definition.

For the rest of the class we tried to define family in a way that included all of the different aspects and types of families. Put simply, family cannot be defined as one thing. Certainly, biology plays a role in deciding who is considered to be family but even a simple biology definition is larger than ancestors and issue, for instance, consider adoption. Similarly, religion has created a certain definition of family, but not every religion defines family in the same way. Moreover, the states have the right and the ability to define what a family is and not the federal government. Just like religion, the states each have a slightly different take on what it means to be a family and even who can be considered a family. Therefore, there are as many as fifty different definitions of family within our country alone. Finally, sometimes family is simply defined by a contract, an agreement between two or more people defining the relationship. In any event, it seems clear to me that family, while seemingly basic, is a surprisingly tricky thing to define. I wonder what you would think defines a family?

Categories: