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Basic social unit consisting of persons united by ties of marriage (affinity), blood (consanguinity), or adoption and usually representing a single household. The essence of the family group is the parent-child relationship, whose outlines vary widely among cultures. One prominent familial form is the nuclear family, consisting of the marital pair living with their offspring in a separate dwelling. While some scholars believe this to be the oldest form, others point to the inconclusive prehistorical record and the widespread existence of other forms such as the polygynous family (a husband, two or more wives, and their offspring) and the extended family (including at least parents, married children, and their offspring). The family as an institution provides for the rearing and socialization of children, the care of the aged, sick, or disabled, the legitimation of procreation, and the regulation of sexual conduct in addition to supplying basic physical, economic, and emotional security for its members. See alsoadoption; marriage.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on family, visit Britannica.com.