by JESSIE ZHANG – TRADITIONAL notions of a family – comprising a mother, a father and their kids – are being redefined, according to a recent survey of nearly 6000 Australians.
The research reveals a society embracing an evolving concept of family, extending beyond the bounds of blood, marriage, adoption, or fostering, as the government still defines it, to include close friends.
Notably, the study found that 67 per cent of Australians now consider “unconditional, non-judgemental support” as a key defining feature of family.
“Understandings of ‘family’ are shifting over time from a rigid institution guided by obligations, tradition and legal definitions to relationships that are defined by love, satisfaction and individual choices,” the survey’s authors wrote.
In fact, 41 per cent of the respondents see family as a choice – a network that can include both blood relatives and close friends.
Study co-author and Research Fellow at Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), Luke Gahan, said the findings have implications for law and policymakers, as definitions of family change.
“For many people family is still a rigid institution underpinned by genetics and legal ties, however, there is an increasing diversity of views on what it means to be a family,” Mr Gahan said.
“This study shows relationships defined by love and individual choice are coming to the fore when it comes to notions of family – throwing up challenges for law and policymakers, as they try to meet the needs of a changing society.”
For example, that pets increasingly being considered family could impact the way couples separate.
“By law, pets are currently considered ‘property’ – but perhaps, given how many of us feel about our pets, something closer to a custody arrangement is more appropriate,” Mr Gahan said.
“Also, many people considering close friends as family could influence how employment law defines ‘immediate family’ in terms of leave provisions, when a family member requires care.”
The family is a fundamental unit of society, allowing people not only to raise children in a stable and nurturing environment, but also to pass on the knowledge of one generation to the next.
However, the traditional family is under threat due to modern movements such as feminism and sexual liberation, according to an Epoch Times series “How the Specter of Communism is Ruling Our World”.
It argues that these movements have led to confusion and contributed to the degradation of the family, with statistical evidence, especially regarding divorce rates and out-of-wedlock births, supporting this.
The authors suggest that the breakdown of the family marks a significant loss of stability.
“The destruction of the family, a basic unit of social stability, also means the destruction of traditional morality established by the divine and of the role the family plays in nurturing the next generation within a framework of traditional culture,” they said.PC