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6 different types of families & their structures

Different types of families

What does your family look like? How many of your friends have similar families, and how many have an alternate structure? Only 100 years ago, a family was defined as a married couple and their children, but things have changed tremendously. Find the different types of families below.

6 different types of families:

The traditional family

Also called nuclear family, the traditional family remains surprisingly strong today. Surprisingly because divorces are on the rise and the stigma once attached to single mothers has largely disappeared. Despite these changes, according to the 2016 US Census, 69% of American children live in a nuclear family, although the parents are not necessarily married.

Research suggests such families are best for children as they provide emotional as well as financial stability. Two is better than one in this case, as the parents share responsibilities so there’s less stress.

While in the 20th century it was common for the woman to be a homemaker and take care of the kids, nowadays, in most families, both parents work and share child-related responsibilities. This means two incomes that allow traditional families to spend more money on the children’s healthcare and education, as well as women enjoying satisfying careers outside of the home.

Single-parent families

One parent living with one or more children describes the single-parent family, a model which has been steadily rising over the past decades. There are several reasons why one parent is left to care for the kids alone: divorce, death of the partner, or having a child without a stable partner.

A single-parent family is one where the bonds between parent and children are quite strong, as are those between siblings. This happens as, in many cases, the family struggles and this generates an us vs. them mentality.

Children raised in such families are more resilient as they need to assume more responsibilities and learn to care for themselves and their younger siblings at an early age.

More types of families:

Extended family

The extended family model with two or even three generations living under the same roof has been imported into the US by immigrants. A great feature of these multigenerational families is that they form a small community, in which the most vulnerable – the elderly and the very young – are cared for. The bonds between members are often quite strong, and family values pass from one generation to another.

The not-so-good part is that an individual might find themselves stifled in such an arrangement, especially in poor living conditions. There’s not much room for Netflix and chill with Grandpa quietly rocking in his chair and Grandma muttering about the daughter-in-law’s cooking skills. Furthermore, the middle generation comes under a lot of pressure if they’re forced to provide for both their parents and their children.

Childless families

Some couples cannot have children for medical reasons, while others simply don’t want them. Such couples enjoy more freedom and might be better off financially than those who have kids as they don’t have to spend significant amounts of money on childcare. They are free to pursue their hobbies and travel more easily, although traveling with kids is certainly doable!

On the other hand, such couples sometimes find themselves left out when their friends settle down and start having kids. A childless couple might socialize with a traditional family less than another childless couple as the former needs to take care of the children’s needs first.

Also, couples fighting with infertility issues are under a lot of stress trying to conceive. That issue can result in the breakdown of their marriage, in some cases.


With a stepfamily, also known as a blended family, young children may live with a stepparent and even acquire stepsiblings. The most difficult part is the adjustment period when the new stepmom or dad has to carve out her or his place in the new family. There can be a lot of resentment, especially following an acrimonious divorce when children are in a tug of war between their biological parents.

A child may perceive a stepparent as an intruder, especially if the ex is not supportive of the blended family. While the stepparent can develop an amazing bond with the youngster, there are also families where children won’t ever truly accept this person into their lives.

Grandparent family

There are many situations where grandparents step in and assume care of their grandchildren. For example, the natural parents might too young to assume such responsibility or be unfit as they are on drugs.

For the children, such an arrangement can be a better alternative than ending up in fostercare. In some cases, grandparents do a better job of raising their grandkids than they did of raising their own children as they’re more mature and they have learned from their mistakes.

At the same time, they might find themselves struggling financially, at a time they were preparing to retire. However, if they can overcome financial issues, they can afford to dedicate themselves fully to the little ones and enjoy a strong bond with their grandchildren.

Final thoughts on different types of families

The concept of family is evolving, all types of family structures have their strengths and weaknesses. What is important is that people understand and respect families that seem so different from their own.

2 thoughts on “6 different types of families & their structures”

  1. Roberta Eaton Cheadle

    This is interesting, Christy. In South AFrica, I understand that 80% of children grew up in a single family [with just a mother]. I think this is reflected in our high poverty and crime rates which become a cycle of poverty.

  2. This is an excellent article Christy. Great framework for understanding families. I appreciate all the work you put into your blog and the for the information you share with your readers. Thank you!

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