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Family history: origin and evolution of the family structure

Although the family is regularly classified as a natural or biological unit, this is also a social construction. Despite its seemingly transhistoric elements, its meaning is grounded in specific cultures and its historical goals.

Based on statistics and social studies, historians use the term family to describe a kinship and a legal unit based on coresidence or blood relations (blood ties).

Family history in the 10th century

Until the 10th century in large areas of Western Europe, marriage was a civil matter that involved couples and their families, since it was the father who passed the guardianship of his daughter to the husband. This act was carried out in a public setting with rituals, for example: a kiss, exchange of an object or words of blessing. In some cases the contracting parties could not have sexual intercourse for three to thirty days after the marriage and the marriage could be broken or sealed just as laxly.

Etymologically, the word “family” comes from the Latin “familus” which means “servant who belongs to a master”. The family is closely linked to a system of property and a system of production; the slaver. Within the family history there was always a slave who was precisely the woman. This ceased later, in modernity, when women began to become independent from men and to fend for themselves.

After some transitions, the marriage will be a matter of the Roman Empire, for which it begins to be regulated by canon law, which will determine the rights and obligations of the contracting parties, especially related to heritage and inheritance.

The Church assumes control of sexuality and education, determining the monogamous and indissoluble character of marriage, whose main purpose is procreation. It prescribes duties of the children towards their parents (obedience and respect) and of the parents towards the children (support, instruction and correction).

But the family was not always patriarchal and monogamous since this coincides with the appearance of the division into social classes. In Engels’s book “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” provocative hypotheses are developed in this regard. Until half a century ago it was common for men to have more than one woman. The requirement of fidelity was imperative for women, but not so for men. The consanguinity of kinship relations was of a maternal order, it was always known who the mother was, but not necessarily who the father was.

For LePlay (French sociologist, economist and engineer) in his work ” L’Organisation de la famille”,  the family was not only the foundation of the family, but also the determining element of all social organization.

Within its methodology to study the family, it shows it as the center of attention, -a factor that will be decisive for the next generations of social scientists and historians. According to this author, the family is the basic organization of society and the entire life of individuals gravitates on it and around it.

The family in modernity

Upon entering Modernity, the family becomes a private space, which is related to the emergence of the construction of the notion of “individual”. It is interesting to be able to see the privatization of the family space through the legal apparatus, social contract, etc. With the emergence of the Nation-State we also see the complexity of relations with the Church.

The Industrial Revolution and increasing urbanization processes will substantially transform the family. On the other hand, we see how the number of members is reduced, creating the nuclear conjugal family , characterized by more labile ties between those who belong to it. Individuals who in their new condition of freedom are massively integrated into the laws of supply and demand. The family becomes a unit of consumption, rather than a unit of production.

After modernization, the family undergoes an intense sociocultural change called “family in crisis” , where cultural, economic and social changes are closely linked to the change that occurs in the modern family.

If we tend to refer to the family, history shows that there are many identifiable forms of it in any culture and at any historical moment.

Today several organizational models seek to impose themselves on the classic family type or traditional family, and we can see different types of family that are identifiable and that although they have to meet certain rules to adapt to society, society must also adapt to them.

Among the “new” family models that have been formalized we can find: the single-parent family, homoparental family, joined family, extended family, family without children and family of welcoming grandparents.

All this modifies subjectivity, the modern subject of reason is built, balanced and adjusted, with a new way of life. Childhood is revalued, the child becomes the center of maternal and home care. The State begins to regulate upbringing from different angles and new values ​​are established.

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Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of ​​Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.

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