I think we can agree that families and the support they provide can be substantially beneficial. There have been various types of families, structured in equally various ways. Largely in what I’ll call the North, the type of family has trended towards cutting connections rather than building them.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, family is a group consisting of a parent and child living together in a household. Although we prefer to extend the definition, the Oxford Dictionary has a couple categories of families based on the hierarchies of the parent-child relationship:
One, the nuclear family, consists of “a couple and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit.” Here we have the parent-child relationship as the building blocks for society. Don’t talk to strangers though – we build societies (read markets) not relationships with others.
The other, the extended family, is one that “extends beyond the nuclear family, including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, who all live nearby or in one household.” The extended family provides more room for relationships but the reach of such relationships do not extend much past the next town.
So far, we tend to have our own family. It is common in today’s cultures to combine families, to a limited extent, in order to perpetuate the family. This is commonly known as “marriage”. Your family is not my family unless we are related through blood or marriage.
Throughout the family structure, there are embedded support structures. The support provided throughout the family is dependent on the power distribution. In our patriarchal society, a man is usually the “head of household”. This status indicates the top of the power distribution of the family.
The hierarchical power distribution within a family is dependent on the structure of the family; those with the most power within the family tend to play the role of a director. These members of the family will determine what support is needed, how support should be applied, and who should receive such support.
These support decisions are generally dictated by our assumption of the duty of blood. For simplicity we’ll generalize a blood relative as one that exists within your family structure and is directly related to you through blood ancestry. The opposite being non-blood relatives that include those that enter your family through marriage. The priority of support commonly begins with blood relatives.
The types of support available is most complete within the duty of blood and are subsequently reduced as the relation becomes less important.
The phenomenon of hierarchical support distribution and the preference of blood is usually referred to as family loyalty. This justification is enforced through the family’s power distribution and maintained through the categorization of relationships. Whether you are a brother, sister, parent or all three, you are defined by that category and with it, expectations for the role.
We can’t be blamed for setting such expectations – we have been trained in our subjugation since civilization. We can, however, be blamed for continuing to respect those expectations, not fighting against them and not helping to relieve others from the relational bottlenecks that occur because of them. It is clear that our application of the family dynamic has excluded too many for too long. Welcome to the family!