The 14 Types Of Family That Exist And Their Characteristics

There are different types of family:  nuclear, homoparental, childless, single parent, reconstituted, extended, adoptive, grandparent and foster. Here we explain its characteristics in detail.

The characteristics of today’s families in Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Argentina or other Latin American countries are very different from those of forty or fifty years ago, in the same way that the families of that time were very different from those of another forty or fifty years ago.

types of families illustration

And so on until the origin of humanity. It is what could be defined as the Evolution of family models .

What is a family?

There are many definitions of family raised by scholars in the field .

Take as an example that of Palacios and Rodrigo (1998):

“The family is a union of people who share a vital project of existence that is desired to last, in which strong feelings of belonging to said group are generated , there is a personal commitment among its members and intense relationships of intimacy, reciprocity and dependence”.

The funny thing is that, although they come from different disciplines and there are variations between them, they all have in common that they include the following elements:

  • The members of the group : an adult man, an adult woman, a heterosexual or homosexual couple, the children of the couple, etc.
  • The links between the members : biological, legal, emotional …
  • The functions .

If we look at the definition given as an example, the composition or structure of the family is not as relevant as the functions it fulfills and the relationships established in it.

What are the different types of family that exist?

At present, you can find a lot of diversity in terms of family models. The different types of family can be classified into:

Nuclear families

Nuclear families are made up of an adult couple who take care of one or more biological children. It is therefore the classic family.

Its main functions are the upbringing of children and achieving the socio-affective well-being of its members. In fact, there is research that states that married men are happier than single men.

However, it is not clear if this is a correlation or a cause. In other words, it could be that the men who are happier marry precisely because it helps them find a partner. 

The nuclear family is the traditional concept of family. When speaking of “family” in popular language, people refer to this type, although the term is becoming more and more widespread.

Homoparental families

They are families made up of two homosexual fathers or mothers and one or more children.

Until recently, when talking about adult couples, especially on these issues, it was assumed that they were only heterosexual couples.

The existing rejection of this family modality, predominant in certain social sectors, is part of the beliefs that still exist about homosexual people and of the deeply rooted beliefs about gender roles in motherhood and fatherhood.

And this is demonstrated by the most frequent social prejudices that have been heard towards this type of family, such as, in general:

  • “Gays and lesbians are unhealthy, unstable people, unable to form a family and lacking in parenting skills.”
  • “These families live in isolation, in ghettos made up exclusively of homosexuals, without social support networks.”
  • “These boys and girls show altered psychological development because they lack the necessary male and female referents.”
  • “These children are going to have a lot of problems because they will suffer social rejection.”
  • “Those kids are going to end up being gay too.”
  • “In that environment, these children can be sexually abused.”

These prejudices still persist despite the numerous investigations and studies carried out by important institutions such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

These show that children with parents of the same sex lead a most normalized life and that this does not negatively influence their development.

What’s more, there are even data that defend the opposite. Children of gay couples have better mental health, more self-esteem, and more flexible gender roles.

This is because it is usually a very thoughtful motherhood and fatherhood, which leads them to investigate child development, promoting appropriate educational styles and a family environment in which children feel loved and protected, while encouraging autonomy and independence.

Single parent families

The single parent family is one that is formed by a single parent, either male or female.

This type of family is not free from criticism and speculation, both in the case of single women and men, although the latter continue to be in the minority.

A few years ago, when talking about single-parent families, the most common profile was that of the divorced mother who had to take care of the children alone because the father had disengaged. There were also the case of adolescent girls who had become pregnant and, again, the biological father had ignored.

Today that profile has changed a bit. While it is true that divorced mothers continue to abound, in recent years there has been a considerable increase in women who have decided to be single mothers through assisted reproductive methods.

Likewise, more and more parents decide to keep custody of their children after divorce, thus claiming their right to exercise paternity on equal terms with women.

As with homoparental families, the type of single parent family has its corresponding cultural beliefs and prejudices regarding gender roles for the most part. For example:

  • “A man alone is not capable of raising his child.”
  • “Children are better off with their mothers.”
  • “These boys and girls show altered psychological development due to the lack of a father / mother figure.”

In the case of women who decide to be mothers alone or end up being one because they have no other choice, their ability as a mother is not questioned as much as the effect that the absence of a father figure will have on the little ones.

However, when it comes to single parents, doubts about the proper development of minors soar, based above all on arguments that question the ability and ability of men to be parents.

In fact, for divorced parents it is normal to find obstacles both legal and from the mothers of their children, making it quite difficult for them to get sole custody and sometimes even shared custody.

All this is somewhat contradictory for a society that seeks to achieve equal rights and roles between men and women.

On the other hand, studies carried out on the development of children in single-parent families conclude that they are children who grow up as “normal” as any other.

Reconstituted, Assembled, or Composite Families

This family modality is perhaps the most abundant today due to the large number of divorces that occur.

They are formed for example by the biological children of the father and the biological children of the mother. They are therefore stepbrothers who form a family because their parents have joined after separating from their previous partners.

Three-generation or extended families

They are made up of members belonging to different generations who live together. For example, a family formed by a couple -father and mother-, their children and the grandfather.

This is another traditional type of family, more widespread in countries with fewer economic resources and in cultures with family values ​​in which the group is valued more.

Adoptive families

A couple or a lone adult with one or more adopted children. 

These families are more common in developed countries, whose families have more economic resources to adopt children from their own country or from others.

For example, in Spain there are nuclear families, single parents and homosexual couples who adopt children from Russia, Asia, Ukraine and African countries.

Host families

A couple or a lone adult decides to host one or more children until they find a permanent home.

This type of family is also more frequent in developed countries. On the other hand, they are more frequent after times of war, when parents have died or have not been able to flee their countries. 

Families without children

triangular theory of love

They are made up of two adults, heterosexual or homosexual, who do not have children, either because they have decided or because they have been able to.

Due to the current social and economic social situation, in which young people have more difficulty accessing housing, with generally lower salaries, having children has become a non-priority and is postponed until they are 30 or even 40 years old.

Related to this type of family is the birth crisis that countries such as Japan or Spain have. Especially in Japan, women have begun to value the professional area of ​​their lives more, leaving the possibility of having a partner and children in second place.

Grandparents family

This kind of family occurs when grandparents take care of their grandchildren, because the parents have abandoned them, have died, or have addiction or legal problems.

Depending on the particular situation of the grandparents, the children can stay with them until they are of legal age and can decide, or enter adoption programs.

Families with separated parents

Although it can be understood as a broken family, it does not mean that it continues to be a family, since with children involved, the bonds, rights and obligations will continue to exist.

Matrifocal family

This type of family is typical of Jamaica, Dominica, the French Antilles or some regions of the United States. It is a family organization system in which the mother and her maternal family carry the greatest weight in the family.

There may be a male partner or husband, but his presence is sporadic and does not have any relevance in decisions about the raising of biological or adoptive children.

Communal family

The communal family is normally made up of a series of monogamous couples with children who decide to live in commune and share rights and obligations among all, including raising children. They are the ones who set the limits they can reach.

One-person families

It is possibly the type of family that has been growing the most in recent decades, which is why it is increasingly accepted. It consists of a single member who lives single, although he may have relationships that will never be formalized.

Families with pets

Until not long ago, the bond that united a family was descent, that is, having a child or children. However, more and more couples are living without the need to bring a child into the world, giving all their love to a pet.

The emotional feeling of these people with the dog, cat or other pet can be as strong as the one that can be had with another human, giving it a similar treatment and not depriving it of sharing moments or experiences.

Family functions

Just as various definitions of the concept of family have been proposed, there are different perceptions regarding its functions.

Mentioning one of them, Allard (1976) argues that those that every family must meet are those to meet the needs of having, of relationship and of being.

  • Needs to have : they are the economic aspects, material and educational goods necessary to live.
  • Relationship needs : they refer to socialization, to love and feel loved and accepted by others, to communication.
  • Needs to be : they are nothing more than the sense of identity and autonomy of oneself.

Although all these functions are important, the literature places more emphasis on the relevance of the family as an instrument of socialization.

Socialization is the process by which beliefs, values ​​and behaviors that a society considers significant are acquired. It is the means with which the behavior of children is regulated and their impulses are controlled, it helps the personal growth of the individual and perpetuates the social order.

Thus, the family environment is the first to which the little ones can access to relate and learn these things, so it is important that the family is able to cover this basic need for the proper development of its members.

Family in Mexico

The concept of family in Mexican society has been transformed with the passing of time and with the social changes resulting from the different events and experiences lived in that country. However, it can be affirmed that in Mexico the family continues to be appreciated as a fundamental nucleus of society.

According to a study published in the journal Ciencia Ergo Sum , at the beginning of the Mexican industrialization period, around 1910, the fact that men – considered heads of the family – had to travel from the periphery to industrial zones implied that women They will be in charge of both the housework and the crops.

This brought about a change in the female role and, therefore, in the family structure. Another important element of that time is that the death of family members was a common event.

This generated incomplete families, with the emotional influence that this entails. In the midst of this context, it was preferable to have small families, to which the parents could offer better possibilities and a higher quality life.

Several decades later, between the 1940s and 1950s, Mexico experienced an economic development that generated greater stability and that was the propitious scenario for women to reach certain demands, which had its roots in the Mexican Revolution and changed the structure again known familiar until then.

The fact that Mexican women began to have a presence in educational, political and labor spheres meant that the domestic role was not absolute.

Although this in general lines has been positive for women, it has also brought an unfavorable consequence, and that is that as a consequence of the working hours, mothers had to leave their children with other relatives, which was creating a family distancing reflected in the relationship between parents and children and also between spouses.

Single parent family

Studies indicate that between 1990 and 2000 the divorce rate increased and the number of new marriages decreased. The National Institute of Statistics and Geography indicated that in 2010 for every 100 civil marriages there were 16 divorces. This fact has triggered the general structure of the Mexican family to go from being nuclear to being single-parent.

Given this context, various pro-family institutions have promoted actions to foster family unity from such varied areas, such as school and work. These initiatives seek to transform the current concept of the family, and promote a vindication of all its members.

Family in Colombia

Some researchers point out that the Colombian family structure is highly variable depending on the region that is taken into account, this as a consequence of the cultural and sociological differences that can be found in the different areas of the country.

This concept was called family polymorphism, named after the researcher Virginia Gutiérrez de Pineda. Later, this term gave way to another called family diversity.

Both emphasize the existence of diverse characteristics of Colombian families, according to culture, socioeconomic level and the heritage of the region of the country that is inhabited.

For example, it has been considered that families living in rural areas have a greater tendency to stay together and to be more solid, in part due to the isolation resulting from the geographical location, which avoids the direct influence of elements such as the media and others. broadcast channels.

On the other hand, families living in urban regions are more exposed to different views, in addition to the fact that the pace of life and the general dynamics that characterize a city directly influence the family structure and its day-to-day development.

Single parent

According to data generated by the National Demographic and Health Survey carried out in 2015, the majority of Colombian households are made up of a single parent; that is, they are single parents. Considering the data from this survey, these households correspond to 11.2% of the surveyed families.

The number of children within the marriage has also decreased. At the end of 1960 the most common is that a Colombian woman had between 6 and 7 children; currently that number has decreased to 2.

Of course, this has an influence on the size of households: in 1990 a household in Colombia had an average of 4.5 people. In the last survey carried out, the figure is 3.2 people per household.

Another curious fact is that the families whose leader is a woman have increased notably, a structure that was not so common before. According to data from 2016, in the main Colombian cities it is considered that 39.6% of families are led by the mother, or female figure.

Families in Peru

According to research carried out in 2017 by Professor Rolando Arellano, the majority of current Peruvian families have undergone a transformation in terms of number of members, in relation to past times.

According to the results obtained in their investigations, a large part of the families in Peru are small; Even though families previously included non-direct members, such as grandparents, cousins, and uncles, today the most essential structure includes, at best, only parents and siblings.

An interesting element of this research is that it becomes evident that, in general, the following generations of a family are enjoying a better quality of life thanks to the efforts that parents made in the past.

In other words, a family group whose leaders had a low socioeconomic level were able to generate the favorable circumstances for their children to study and have the possibility of, for example, a better education.

Another relevant aspect is the diversification of interests that the children of a family can present; Generally speaking, training options have increased.

For this reason, they do not necessarily have to follow a single course of action to be successful, but they can dedicate themselves to different activities that generate pleasure; For example, in this context it is possible that a son of a Peruvian family considers studying design while her brother wants to dedicate herself to engineering and her other sister prefers acting.

Considerable single parent percentage

A study carried out in 2013 by Child Trends, the National Marriage Project of the University of Virginia and the Institute of Family Sciences of the University of Piura, determined that 24% of children in Peru who have less than 18 years old has grown up with only one father or mother figure.

This figure suggests that there is a considerable percentage of single-parent families in Peru.

Enterprising woman

Another characteristic element of the Peruvian family is the change in the role of women. According to demographic studies, the migrations of the male figure in search of sustenance for the home brought as a consequence, among other things, that women had fewer pregnancies.

This means that she has fewer children to care for and more time to dedicate to other tasks, in addition to those traditionally assigned: raising children and taking care of the home.

This is not reflected only in single-parent families whose only representative is the woman. In Peruvian nuclear families, it is observed that women have a greater participation, and that their decisions have a greater impact on all members of the family.

This has been the result of the need for independence that the female figure has had in the Peruvian migratory context.

Family in Venezuela

Traditionally, the Venezuelan family has been immersed within a matriarchy. Scholars on the subject, such as the researcher Alejandro Moreno Olmedo, indicate that this vision of the single-parent family structure led by the female figure has its origin in times of the Spanish Conquest.

At that time many women became pregnant and had to take care of their children. This matricentrismo, as the families whose leader is the mother are called, has characterized the Venezuelan family throughout its history.

Some studies indicate that this is the origin of the non-existence of a harmonic and constructive structure of the family concept in general terms; instead, the father has a practically non-existent role, which in many cases has proven to be very damaging.

As in previous cases, in Venezuela the concept of the family has also been transformed over the years. The female figure began to be more integrated into the workplace, and this implied that, in nuclear families, it was not only the man who was the proctor of supplies, but also the woman.

Based on this specialization, another characteristic of the Venezuelan family is that the different members have become attorneys, in many cases due to the need for subsistence in the context of a precarious economic situation.

In short, the situation of the current Venezuelan family confirms that the matriarchal characteristic of past times is still present in different areas. In general, it is a single-parent structure in which the mother and children are the most important, the former being the staunch defender of the latter.

Current exodus

Currently Venezuela has experienced the largest exodus in its history, since approximately 1.6 million Venezuelans have decided to emigrate to different countries as a result of the precarious economic, social and health situation that this Latin American country is experiencing.

This enormous exodus, carried out in just 3 years, has resulted in many families being separated; This dynamic includes direct members (parents or separated children) and those less close, such as grandparents, cousins, uncles, and other members.

Family in Spain

For Spanish society, the family is still considered a central element of society. The most characteristic thing about the structure of the family in Spain is that it has been undergoing an interesting evolution based on tolerance and respect for diversity.

This is how you can see families whose parents are of the same sex, are parents with adopted or artificially generated children. Likewise, it is common to observe families that are not constituted under the figure of marriage, but that have a fairly solid structure.


Different reasons are those that have given rise to these atypical structures of the family, such as daily dynamics and the fact that many women decide to wait until advanced ages to procreate.

The delay in leaving the parental home as a result of low financial solvency, or even the desire to explore different possibilities before settling in the framework of a family, has also had an influence.

All these reasons can have a common origin: the demands related to generating greater equality between women and men. Roles traditionally given to women have been taken over from men, or simply no longer taken for granted.

For example, studies carried out by the European Statistical Office determined that in 2014 Spanish women had the fewest number of children in the world each year (the average was 1.32 children per Spanish woman).

These same studies indicate that in 2014 40% of children were born out of wedlock; Although in general these are solid homes with equal validity, some experts indicate that this lack of legality can generate a propensity for separations.

Economic context

As mentioned above, the economic situation experienced by Spain in the last 40 years has also influenced the decisions that have marked the Spanish family structure.

Undoubtedly, the inability to afford a flat where to start a family or to have the financial solvency to respond to their future needs implies a change in the family concept.

According to figures generated by the Report on the Evolution of the Family in Spain, carried out in 2016, 25% of Spanish families at that time were single parents; that is, 1 out of every 4 families was led by a single member. This is equivalent to 4.5 million families.

That same study indicated that broken marriages in Spain exceeded the average for the European Union by about 20 points, and it is estimated that the main reason for these breaks is divorce.

Family diversity

That families have changed is a fact. And in light of the numerous studies and research, it seems that the biggest problem that each of these types of families have is rejection by the society in which they are found. Which, even with scientific data, sometimes gets stuck in their beliefs.

Because when there is a social change, in the face of ignorance, what is usually alleged is that it will have negative consequences, in this case psychological.

Prejudices, stereotypes, labels, taking for granted that the traditional model is the only valid one and what is out of its range is harmful … All this does nothing more than generate hatred, discomfort or violence, promoting what is so much fears: psychological problems in people.

No person is the same as another, just as no family is the same as another: some have a dog, others the father / mother has died, others live with their grandparents …

For example, a child who grows up with dogs or pets generally learns a series of values ​​at an earlier age than others who have not, without impairing the abilities of children who grow up without pets.

Standardization is important, both for parents and children. Without going any further, it is necessary for children to see that at school, which is their main social learning environment, they are not strange creatures because only the family made up of a father, a mother and the children is included in the school supplies. sons.

Society does not realize that what was considered a “normal family” hardly exists anymore. The normal, the common, is diversity.


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