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< Back to question What is the sociological definition of a family? Show more Show less

The concept of “family” has evolved in recent decades. The intolerant view of a nuclear family, where a man and woman in wedlock have children and the male provides while the female undertakes child care responsibilities, no longer applies to many modern family units. So, what is a family?

Family means a shared residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction Show more Show less

A classic sociological definition of the family was put forward by George Peter Murdock. He asserted that families shared a residence, were somewhat economically integrated, and are built around the reproductive relationship of the parents.
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Polyamorous and non-monogamous relationships are widespread

Any definition that excludes the possibility of polygamy within a family unit falls short.
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Any sociological definition of a family must be able to accommodate the ubiquity of non-monogamous relationships across cultures.

The Argument

In his work, George Peter Murdock found that 195 societies in his sample were non-monogamous, while only 43 were comprised of monogamous couples. Therefore, his sociological construct of the family needed to reflect the prominence of polyamory. In defining the family unit as a shared residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction, he was able to accommodate non-monogamous relationships where multiple sexual partners lived under the same roof and took part in domestic responsibilities.

Counter arguments


[P1] Many families across the world are not monogamous. [P2] Therefore, any definition must allow for monogamous relationships. [P3] Even polygamous relationship share a home, have a degree of economic cooperation, and reproduce. [P4] Therefore, Murdock's classic definition of a family is the most accurate.

Rejecting the premises


    This page was last edited on Sunday, 28 Jun 2020 at 23:26 UTC

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