Concepts and Terms associated with the Family

This post will explore the more common terms associated with the family as per your your syllabus.


A social relationship which is often the building block of society and involves relationships reckoned through blood–consanguinity and through marriage–affinity. Through these relationships social roles and responsibilities can be managed. A person does not have to be related to you by blood for you to consider them a kin. Kinship can also refer to our sense of family relationships and duties.


The amount of honour and privilege enjoyed by a person occupying a particular role in society. In other words, the respect that others have for you. Status or social honour is usually expressed through lifestyle.

Extended Family

An enlarged and inter-personally complex family unit made up of a nuclear family (a married couple and their children) plus relatives (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins) with consanguine ties. The extended family may live together for various reasons. In many instances it provides financial and emotional support to help raise children, or it may be a convenient arrangement to support an ill or elderly relative.

 Nuclear Family

A family composed of a husband, wife and their unmarried offspring living together as a family unit. This is the most basic unit of social organisation. Members of a nuclear family may be related to one another by blood, marriage or adoption.


When an individual is married to only one person at a time.


The marriage of a woman to two or more men at the same time.


The marriage of a man and two or more women at the same time.


The male is the head of the family and descent, kinship and title are traced through the male line.


Family system organised around the principle mother-rule in which mothers or females are at the top of the power structure.


Family pattern in which the father carries the responsibility for the family; common in patriarchal societies.


Family pattern in which the mother carries responsibility for the family; common in matriarchal societies.


Inheritance system in which property and status are acquired through the mother and not the father.


Inheritance system in which property and status are acquired through the father.


Marrying someone while still legally married to another person. This term is used where this practice is illegal.


Sexual intercourse between persons regarded as too closely related to marry.


Legal union between a man and a woman, permanent unless dissolved by divorce.

Legal Separation

Allows a couple to live apart without divorcing. A court order outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse. A separation can be granted for the same reasons a divorce can be given.


The legal end of a marriage.


The declaration that a marriage is invalid.


Money paid by a man to his wife or former wife or by a woman to her husband or former husband after they are separated or divorced.


A brother or a sister.


Receipt of property, money or the like by legal descent or succession.


Goldenberg, I., Goldenberg, H., Family Therapy: An Overview (2000)

Mustapha, N., Sociology For Caribbean Students (2009)

Waterman, I., Fisher, J., Social Studies For CSEC Examinations (2012)


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