Structure Sunday: The Structure of Family

What is family and what does it do for us ? I have had a family focused type of weekend and I wanted to share some numbers and thoughts about the issue of family. 




  • The nuclear family: Two parents and their children.
  • The blended family: which is remarried or re-partnered parents each with their own children under one roof.
  • The extended family: such as sisters, uncles, grandparents, and non relatives either living in the home or elsewhere.
  • The single parent family
  • The childless family.

Consider all these and more. Add in non married partners, good friends and neighbors. All these people bear on how we live, our health and our happiness. 

Here are some illuminating data from

About 50 years ago, 80 % of households included a married couple. Now this is down to 50 %. Some households are made up of non family members, and these are up from 10 % to about 33% in the same last 50 years. 

Two parents households with children have decreased about 15%in the last 50 years to 70% of all households with children. About 25% of all household with children only have a mother. Father only households are up to about 4% of all households with children. 

Among all households with or without children, a steady 30 % are childless. 10% of all households are single parent households with children. Households which are traditional, meaning married with children are half of what they were over about the last 50 years, going from 40 to 20 % . 

Everyone knows the saying “ It takes a village.” I would like to point out that this is not just for kids. Adults, married, single or partnered, are happier and healthier if they have strong familial and friendship ties.

Through history, we have developed families, clans and tribes for surviving and thriving. We are wired for it. But in modern times, we are more likely to reach out to friends or coworkers. People sometimes forget to reach out to those closest to them, even those with whom they live. 

I am writing to suggest that people look around and renew ties to those most near. I suggest that this include spouses and partners, children and others in the household, as well as old friends and even neighbors. These relations may not have the cachet of accomplished coworkers, but keeping these relationships healthy has deep benefits. 

It helps us with continuity, and to know our personal history. It helps with feelings of stability, especially for children. Getting along with those closest to us is not really glamourous. But it make us flexible and empathetic. It grounds us. 

Try starting with a phone call, email, or a card in the mail. Then, by all means, plan some sort of get together. The most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect, and they don’t have to be perfect. The most important thing to do it to connect.