23 Types of Families

Attika Mirbaz

Broadly speaking, expectations about the responsibility and role of every family member are set by society. Roles of a mother and father are separated to identify “good parents.” Typically, a father’s role is to provide financially, whereas a mother’s role is to nurture and raise child/ren. As society is changing, the roles of the family members have also changed; however many aspects hinder the average person from growth due to their race, age, ability, class, gender, sex, and sexuality. The upward mobility of women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ community is still diminished. Patriarchy is structured to aid men and keep men in desired positions in society. A male may prosper professionally after starting a family, but a woman may not have the opportunity to get promoted or hired after becoming a mother because the system caters to men. The structural role of the family places the women in the home nurturing and raising children, therefore placing them out of the workforce.

That being said, social scientists have observed different variations of family throughout the world, and the idea of what makes a family has also changed and evolved over time.  For some, family is determined by blood; for others, family is the people they choose to love in their lives. Different theories have different explanations for structures and purposes of families. From a structural functionalist approach, family is a societal construct that contributes to the functioning, continuity, and assimilation of people across generations. A symbolic interactionist approach theorizes a family as a group who share their resources experiencing similar daily life events. Whatever the perspective, the purposes of family are the same: child rearing, socialization, and the continuation of society through sharing values, culture, beliefs, mores, and the like.

Nuclear/traditional family: a married, heterosexual couple and their offspring in one household
Single parent family: one parent raising children on their own
Extended family: multiple generations in one unit related by blood, marriage, or choice
Blended family: parents and their children from previous relationships who form new family attachments together
Childless/childfree family: families who cannot or choose not to have children
Chosen family: group of people that fulfill significant familial-like roles in each other’s lives



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Gender in Canada: A Companion Workbook Copyright © 2023 by Attika Mirbaz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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