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The 8 types of families (and their characteristics)

The 8 types of families (and their characteristics)

December 5, 2021

In recent decades, many important changes in society have arisen, and the family is no exception. Since 1975, Divorce figures have doubled, causing an increase in households with only one parent . Something that, only a few years ago, was not socially accepted.

Nowadays, on the other hand, the phenomenon of divorce is quite common. According to the Business Insider website, which produced a graphic map showing the divorce rates of the different countries of the world, Spain occupies the fifth place with 61% of couple breakups.

The importance of the family in the development of children and young people

The family is extremely important in the development of children, as it is, possibly,The socializing agent that will most influence their growth . In fact, children need adults for a long period of time, which has caused all societies to be organized around groups of people that we generally know as "the family".


But with the changes that have been happening in recent years with respect to family structures, the smallest, at times, have had to live in familiar environments that are not always the ideal ones. Families educate their children, and their primary objective should be to provide them with a solid base so that they can face the future with the best possible guarantees. In other words, families should help them to learn to be respectful of others, to have a strong and resilient personality or to acquire affective and economic security, in short, to prepare them for a successful adult life. Unfortunately, this does not always happen like this.

Toxic or pathological families

The importance of the family in the emotional wellbeing of its members has been of scientific interest during the last decades. Not only because of the genetic origin of some pathologies such as schizophrenia, but because of the importance of the environment and the influence of family structures on mental disorders.


In the field of mental health, there is an increasing awareness of how family difficulties affect its members, so it is necessary for them to face their difficulties in the best possible way. In this sense, what differentiates a dysfunctional family from a functional family is not the presence or not of problems, but what is important is the use of recurrent interaction patterns that hinder the social and psychological development of its members , and affects its adaptation and conflict resolution.

  • To learn more: "Toxic families: 4 ways in which they cause mental disorders"

Stability and change in the family

As mentioned, the normal family, if that concept makes sense, it is not exempt from difficulties or problems, which requires to be based on a conceptual scheme of family functioning in order to understand its dysfunctionality. The normal family is in constant effective functioning, and despite the difficulties it is capable of transforming, adapting, and restructuring itself over time to continue functioning.


It is important to differentiate the dysfunctional family from the poor family. The latter is characterized by difficulties in satisfying economic resources. From the start, poor families do not have to be dysfunctional However, scientific research has provided data that affirm that families with limited economic resources may have difficulties when carrying out different family functions. For example, education or affective and relational development of their children.

Types of families that exist

Since the family starts from society, it is a structure that can change over time, and in fact it does. The family structure does not indicate if a family is functional or not, but simply has to do with the form of it and its members. Something that has a lot to do with the historical, economic and cultural context.

This variety of forms include the following.

1. Nuclear family (two-parent)

The nuclear family is what we know as a typical family, that is, the family formed by a father, a mother and their children. Societies generally encourage their members to form this type of family.

2. Single parent family

The single-parent family it consists in that only one of the parents takes charge of the family unit, and, therefore, in raising the children. It is usually the mother who stays with the children, although there are also cases in which the children stay with the father. When only one of the parents takes care of the family, it can become a very big burden, which is why they usually require the help of other close relatives, such as the grandparents of the children. The causes of the formation of this type of families can be a divorce, being a premature mother, widowhood, etc.

3. Adoptive family

This type of family, the adoptive family , refers to parents who adopt a child. Although they are not the biological parents, they can play a great role as educators, equivalent to that of the biological parents in all aspects.

4. Family without children

This type of families, the families without children , are characterized by not having descendants. Sometimes, the parents' inability to procreate leads them to adopt a child. In any case, we can perfectly imagine a family unit in which, for one reason or another, you have not wanted or could have children. Do not forget that what defines a family is not the presence or absence of children.

5. Family of separated parents

In this type of family, what can we call family of separated parents , the parents have separated after a crisis in their relationship. Although they refuse to live together, they must continue to fulfill their duties as parents. Unlike single-parent parents, in which one of the parents carries the full burden of raising the child on their backs, the separated parents share functions, although the mother is, in most cases, the one who lives with the child .

6. Composite family

This family, the compound family , is characterized by being composed of several nuclear families. The most common cause is that other families have formed after the breakup of a couple, and the child, in addition to living with his mother and his partner, also has the family of his father and his partner, and may have stepbrothers.

It is a type of family more common in rural settings than in urban ones, especially in contexts where there is poverty.

7. Homoparental family

This type of family, the homoparental family , is characterized by having two homosexual parents (or mothers) who adopt a child. There can also be homoparental families formed by two mothers, obviously. Although this possibility raises a wide social debate, studies have shown that the children of parents or homoparental mothers have a normal psychological and emotional development, as for example explains this report of the APA.

8. Extended family

This type of family, the extended family , it is characterized because the raising of the children is in charge of different family members or several members of the family (parents, cousins, grandparents, etc.) live in the same house. If you have ever seen the famous series "The Prince of Bel Air", you can see how Will lives in his uncle's house, who takes on the role of his father. It can also happen that one of the children has his own child and they all live under the same roof.

Bibliographic references:

  • Martín López, E. (2000). Family and society Madrid: Rialp Editions.
  • Vázquez de Prada, Mercedes (2008). History of the contemporary family. Madrid: Rialp Editions.
  • Grandson MC. (1997). Family Focus on Health. Femec Journal of Medicine.
  • Pusinato, N. (1992). The systemic approach in the study of family relationships. Cusinato M. Psychology of family relationships, 21 Ed. Barcelona: Editorial Herder.

8 Common Characteristics of a Dysfunctional Family (December 2021).


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