Interpersonal Relationships: Defining Family

This week’s topic in Human Development & Family Studies: Interpersonal Relationships in the Family (HDFS 444), we’re collectively defining family. Some interesting questions we’re asked to consider include:

  • “Are second and third cousins – whom you may rarely see or even know – really considered family?”
  • “Are unrelated friends considered members of the family?”
  • “Does the idea of family change over time?”

Understanding that everyone has their own unique experiences, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what family means to me:

I believe family is defined by a long-term bond that involves trust, commitment, nurture and deep understanding for one another. Family isn’t limited to blood relationships, but it can be strengthened by them.

To answer the suggested questions, I believe second and third cousins are considered family. While you may not spend a great deal of time with them, you share a history through elders, which connects you at a deeper level than acquaintances.

Unrelated friends can be considered members of the family through certain circumstances. I have parents’ friends whom I consider close like family, but I wouldn’t introduce them as a family member. However, I have relatives whose godparents aren’t blood related, and in those cases, I would introduce them as family.

I believe the idea of family changes over time. The main reason for my belief is because people change over time. As a child, you’re told who your family members are and you build relationships surrounding these connections. As you grow older, you realize the importance of these bonds. You understand that relationships have the ability to strengthen or weaken, which may allow you to appreciate them more. Once you have a family of your own, your idea of family drastically changes because the roles are reversed.

I’m interested to see how my beliefs differ from others. Feel free to share your own and/or comment on mine.

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