DR. MIGUEL A. GONZÁLEZ, LMF T, MHS, MS
As summer becomes fall and we approach important holiday—Thanksgiving, the meaning and significance of the family in our society is highlighted. These special days are usually spent with family, if we have one to share them with, Often people find themselves alone and/or grieving on these special days due to divorces, death or estrangement.
Human beings are born into families, and from that Point on, even after our death, we continue to be a part of a family. Even children that are born to single mothers are indeed a part of a family, as there are
generations of ancestors of this child who form his or her present or historical family. But, what is a family, and what are some of the contributions it makes to the well-being of the individual members and society at large?
Some writers define the family based on whether they have legal or blood ties, others see the family as a socio-economic unit with wide economic implications, others define the concept as to include
people that live under the same roof, sharing rights and responsibilities, etc. However, independently of the definitions, there is a general consensus, even across cultures, that the family is the most important
unit in society. Can you imagine life without a family? For most of us, membership in our families is not something we worry about; it is taken as a given because the family is such an integral part of our lives. In most instances,
at least in American society, the moment we are born, there are safeguards provided by our parents or other family members so as to ensure our safety and happiness. Our family provides not only the biological
means for our survival but also the social skills and guidance to learn to function in an increasingly complex world.
At birth, we are fragile and unable to provide for our own survival; as such, we are dependent on others, mainly our family; without these safeguards, we would perish, despite our brain superiority over other
species. Some writers state that a child learns most of the things in life from his or her family. Our homes serve as our first schools and our parents and/or caregivers are our first teachers, from whom we learn
social/relational, communication and other skills to deal with the world outside our doors. From changing our diapers to lending us a shoulder to cry on, when our emotional pain seems unbearable, our family
members stand by us, particularly during times of suffering and adversity.
Beyond the temperament and personality traits we inherit from our parents, the family is also the most important force responsible for shaping both. The literature asserts that not even migration, a modern
challenge to the traditional concept of family, does away with the learnings, values and beliefs we acquire in the context of our families, or with the family self-identity we have developed overtime.
As evidence in the recent economic recession, families were forced to band together to help each other navigate the worst crisis since the Great Depression. The family unit, in its broadest definition, became
ever important in the survival of, not only the families themselves, but our society as a whole. Whatever the case may be, the significance of family for society is immense!