Adopting A More Realistic Defintion of “Family”

Mary Patricia Treuthart, Adopting A More Realistic Definition of “Family”, 26 Gonz. L. Rev. 91 (1990).


What is the definition of “family” in the 1990’s? The traditional family with a breadwinner-husband and a homemaker-wife who live with their biological children is certainly an anomaly in America today. Although existing families have diverse characteristics, the functional aspects of this basic social unit remain the same: the provision of love and support to its members. Social institutions and the law have not kept up with the changes in family life. As a result, many groups which function as families are not recognized as such, and are denied benefits which society bestows upon families which resemble the traditional model, if only superficially.

This article will (a) examine the failure of a narrow definition of family to reflect social reality; (b) provide a brief summary and assessment of recent actions taken by lawmakers and courts to expand the definition of family; and (c) suggest that ultimately the solution may require reevaluating the basic assumptions in which legal distinctions based on marriage and family status have been rooted. . .

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