Nuclear family and extended family

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Nuclear family and extended family are terms that came into use in the mid-twentieth century and have different definitions. We will examine the meanings of the phrases nuclear family and extended family, where these expressions came from, and some examples of their use in sentences.

A nuclear family is a social unit that consists of parents and children. The nuclear family is also known as the immediate family, the elementary family, and the conjugal family. The nuclear family as a socioeconomic unit and its impact on society has been studied for decades. Research suggests that the practice of living as a nuclear family fueled the Industrial Revolution. Small families establishing their own households had to grab new opportunities and be flexible in their methods of economic survival. People who grow up in a nuclear family are said to be more child-centric and more self-reliant, according to some experts. They generally have a higher educational attainment and more economic mobility. In many parts of the world, nuclear families and their family forms with a married couple as heads of the household and only their children living in the same household are considered the traditional family. The coining of the term nuclear family is attributed to American anthropologist G.P. Murdock in the 1940s. The word nuclear, here, is related to the definition meaning the center of something.

An extended family is a social unit that includes parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, adult children, and dependent children. Often, much of an extended family is living together in a multigenerational house or living in close proximity, but not always. It is the family relationships and kinship that define an extended family. Some studies show that the family structure of intergenerational households make parenting easier. While in many parts of the world the nuclear family is the norm, in many other parts of the world an extended family living under one roof is the norm.


A 2,800-year-old grave of what seems to be a nuclear family, a child buried with its parents, has been discovered in the Phoenician port city of Achziv. (Haaretz)

Though nuclear families are the norm in India, the percentage of single-mother households is on the rise, according to the United Nation’s Progress of the World’s Women 2019 report. (The Hindu)

If you’re seeking to break up with your extended family, the ISM would suggest that the reasons are most likely to involve the affectual and consensual dimensions. (Psychology Today Magazine)

This is one of the reasons extended family Christmases can be so difficult; no one seems allowed to shift from the role they were given decades ago. (The Sydney Morning Herald)