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What is a family?

Most of us have grown up within something that we would define as a “family”.

Many of you will recreate a family of some sort, either through marriage or partnership. We often think and talk about “family” as if there is one singular experience or family form - even though there is so much variation in the types and experiences of family.

Some families, for example, have children, some don’t, some have adopted, fostered or step-children. Some families have a mum and a dad, some have two dads or two mums. Some families have co-parents, some have one parent, some families include grandparents and other extended family members, and some in kinship, blended or intergenerational families. Some families change over time in response to life events such as divorce, remarriage, migration, and children leaving the parental home.

Research indicates that it's actually the quality of parenting relationships that determines children’s wellbeing, rather than the form or structure a family takes (Dempsey, D; 2013 AIFS). That is, it's not who is in your family that counts, but the relationship between you and you parents or caregivers.

Some examples of how you may feel and experience family life might be the following:

  • Mostly good
  • Mostly okay with some good times
  • Mostly painful with some good or okay times
  • Scary and abusive with some okay moments.

The good news is that no matter how good or bad your experiences were in your family, spending some time trying to understand these experiences, can help you to understand your future relationships.
If you feel that times are tough in your family and you need some help, there's plenty available.

Check out our useful stuff, including knowhows, questions and answers, stories and links.

If you need help now, click here.


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