Family

Additional Information on Chapter 2, page 23

Realization follows image. Anything that exists that was created by humans was started out as an image in someone’s mind. Family follows the same model. The family that is envisioned by a couple prior to marriage is likely to be the reality that emerges. There is such astonishing diversity of successful families that it is impossible to come up with a blue print.

Wisdom of the Ages

The family has been topic of keen interest throughout history. The Great Books of the Western World (the 100 greatest authors of all time) spend more than 1000 pages on the topic of family and describe, explore and philosophize about almost every imaginable aspect of it. Here are some famous quotes about the family stretching back 2500 years. Some you will agree with others, you may not

  • Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778): “The family is the most ancient structure of all societies and the only one that is natural.”
  • William Hegel (1770-1831): “A family must involve the procreation and rearing of children.”
  • Socrates (470-399 B. C.) and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873): “Women should have equal status with men in the context of the family.”
  • Plato (428-348 B. C.): “Perhaps children, husbands and wives should be equally shared in a common society.”
  • John Locke (1632-1704): “If a marriage fails to accomplish its purpose it should be dissolved.”
  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): “A marriage is a contract not only between the man and his wife but with a third party, children and society, and a fourth, God. As such it cannot be dissolved by their consent alone.”
  • Karl Marx (1818-1883): “Family and marriage are merely societal conventions and can and should be dissolved or adapted at will.”
  • Paul of Tarsus (1st century A.D.): “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”

Definitions of Family

The Webster’s Dictionary provides four different components in his definition of family:

  1. Fellowship (such as a church family);
  2. A group of people of common ancestry (this could include nuclear or extended families);
  3. A group of individuals living under one roof and under one head (this could be a communal family that does not require common ancestry but does require a leader);
  4. The basic unit in society having as its nucleus two or more adults living together and cooperating in the care and rearing of their own or adopted children (this definition, like Hegel, requires the presence of children).

From the world of psychology comes a more focused definition:

“Any group of persons united by the ties of marriage, blood, or adoption or any sexually expressive relationship in which
1. The people are committed to one another in an intimate, interpersonal relationship,
2. The members see their identity as importantly attached to the group, and
3. The group has an identity of its own.”

This definition allows for the entire array of what people may loosely call family: nuclear, single-parent, extended, blended, communal, homosexual, cohabiting. It also includes the likelihood of children but not the necessity.

A Summing Up

The key components of family appear to be “intimate interpersonal relationships,” “fellowship,” “leadership,” and “group identity.” How these and other components are fitted, how this tapestry is woven, how this symphony is composed will be as diverse as the couples who attempt it. As such, it is not possible to come up with a composite of the “generic family”. This, however, in no way diminishes the importance of couples considering the wisdom of the ages and their own backgrounds as they attempt to create a meaningful and rewarding family structure.

We now reconsider our first statement: “Realization follows image.”

This comment suggests that it is very important that a couple consider what a family looks like in the context of their own relationship, mission, values, and goals. This needs to occur long before the family materializes at the consummation of marriage. During the course of a marriage structure and dynamics of the family will be discussed and adapted as changes over time and need dictate.

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