In nearly every society around the world, the family is the foundation unit of each culture. Each society might define family differently, but overall every culture recognizes the importance of family for holding together society and providing structure for individuals. Family, that is to say, is truly the backbone of our life. To understand this, let’s look at how society recognizes the importance of family. By examining the importance of family at both the societal and individual level, we can produce a portrait of how friendship affects us throughout our lives.Family and Society: First and foremost, every society has formal ways of recognizing families. In modern Western culture, our formal family structure is based on marriage and the nuclear family. We prioritize the husband-wife bond, and the children of those marriages. In other societies, however, the nuclear family is embedded within a larger extended family unit composed of several generations who live together and work for their mutual benefit. The importance of family, therefore, is somewhat culturally defined since each culture chooses who gets to count as family.
In some societies, particularly in the south Pacific, the husband-wife marriage bond is much less important than the parent-child bond, and some societies encourage very different family arrangements than we are used to. For example, in some cultures, women take multiple lovers and children are considered to be the joint child of all of the people involved in the relationship. More commonly, cultures define either the father’s line (patrilineal descent) or the mother’s line (matrilineal descent) as defining who belongs to a family. In the West, we began with patrilineal descent, though today it is increasingly common to see both lines of descent as equally valid.
Each culture also imposes rituals that help to determine who is and is not a member of a family. Aside from the ritual of marriage, we also have rituals for birth and adoption to define who belongs and who does not. Together, these rituals help to give structure to our family life and give societal sanction to our relationships.
Family and the Individual: But the real way that family forms the backbone of our lives is through the support that family provides us from birth to death. As a small child, our families provide us with protection and comfort and empower us to grow and develop. In our youth, family gives us the structure we need to thrive and the support to grow into the people that we will become. As we age, our families change with us. The older generation passes on, and a new generation is born. This gradual transition provides the structure for our lives as we move from one stage to the next, from son to father to grandfather and daughter to mother to grandmother. At each stage, we look toward our family to provide our motivation and our reason for going the extra mile to achieve our goals.
However, not everyone will move through all of these stages or have the kind of strong family relationships that our society believes to be ideal. We may not have children or might never marry. We might be orphans or have multiple stepparents. Nevertheless, even those of us who do not have a traditional family experience some of the support that family can provide by developing families of choice. Families of choice are those individuals whom we accept as family members even though they may not be so by law or blood. These close friends provide support, love, and comfort even when our birth families do not.
Overall, family is an important and essential component of social organization. Cultures like that of ancient Sparta that tried to break the importance of family by having children raised communally by the government ultimately failed because, in the end, no one cares as much about us as our families, and through a combination of socialization and genetics, no one will do more for us than our families. Therefore, when we consider the role of family in our lives we can stop and realize that family is truly the backbone that keeps us on track and working toward the goal of a full, rich and satisfying life.
About author: This reflective article is written by a freelance essay writer who is hired by Write My Paper Hub – established custom writing agency.