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Evolution of Family Structures

The evolution of families entails the sociocultural changes of kinship groups from the pre- industrial to modern time. The family is an institution possessing numerous basic and universal roles in the society (Blustone 31). The principle discrepancies of ideas that relate to theories about family structure evolution are based on matters of time and complexities. Complexity comes in to play when different researchers try to explain the reasons for family structure evolution over time. Some researchers assume that only a single prominent pattern of linear factors can explain the change of family structure. However, others view the matter as a multidirectional pattern that involves a change of family organization at several levels. Time has been the main determinant in the emergence of nuclear families. Changes of family structures can be attributed to the social variations brought about by the industrial revolution (Lee 45). Technology has infiltrated the entire society, hence, replacing family concerns and loyalties with egocentricity and materialism. Family functions were, therefore, replaced by bureaucracy thus reducing the families to dependent client institutions. The thesis statement of this research paper is “While traditional or nuclear families were considered the socially desired basis of family, this is no longer the norm in today’s society because the evolutionary structures of the family has become more diverse”.

The evolved families, according to most historians, are based on technology. A society having its foundation and roots on the recent technology is corrupt; since it has lost its passion and commitment to the morally righteous priorities like family to the ethics of technology. The emergence of new societies and families due to the industrial revolution causes the shift from extended families to nuclear ones (Gaunt and Richard, 43). However, in some circumstances, nuclear families seem to have existed long before the industrial revolution (Laslett, 46). Nuclear families existed both before and after the evolutionary era of industries. Young couples were living in their own households, and the same applied to the elderly couples. Members of the same family could also live separately in some places during the eighteenth century. In this era, however, putting material possession and work before the family was not common. The technological changes have impacted adversely on such loyalties. Increased material possessions brought by the industrial revolution have profoundly affected the family structures and social relationships.

Family structures of the pre- revolution era were the nuclear family also the absolute household structure and the extended family also called the joint household structure. Nuclear families were characterized by late marriages while the extended ones with early marriages. Nuclear families usually established different households after marriage, neolocality, while, in extended families, the new weds live with the parents of the groom, patrilocality. The family in the traditional age had functions like holding land, food production, reproduction, socialization and regulation of inheritance (Blustone, 41). Roles on the external environment like participating in politics and religions were also significant. Governments were absent in the pre- industrial time, making the family the principle decision maker. In the post industrial age, families changed roles due to new work and living conditions. Responsibilities like food production, education, land holding and welfare of the helpless were transferred to the public institutions. The families of the industrial revolution age became more domestic, private than the traditional families. Today families are based on emotional attachment between the parent and children or wife and husband.

The primary reason for the evolution of family structures from the traditional family to today’s dependent entities was the large groups that acted as an individual. Nuclear and traditional families saw individuals as part of a certain group which influenced the lives of such people incredibly. Both social and physical situations involved groups of people (Gaunt and Richard, 51). Such groups including the family provided a sense of belonging to people. Family as an institution has changed immensely, and different units present themselves as families. For instance, the adopted, fosters, interracial, gay or lesbians all consider themselves as families. The true meaning of the family is lost, and dependent entities are taking the credit of family loyalty.


Family evolution was caused by the industrial revolution that saw many individuals becoming more materialistic and self- oriented than ever before. This saw the changing of the group based family structure of the pre- industrial era to the individualistic structures of the post- industrial age. From the traditional nuclear and extended families of the past, today people engage in modern families that are work and wealth oriented. Roles and responsibilities of the families were also transferred from the groups to the public institutions. Families are an essential component of the society, and their maintenance is vital. Therefore, before considering changing the structure of a family, the ultimate impacts should be analyzed.


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