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What do we mean by "family"?

Introduction

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In this unit you will encounter many different voices and views of ‘family’, and sometimes you will also be invited to reflect on your own views and assumptions. So, we welcome you to the fascinating study of family meanings. By putting ‘meanings’ at centre stage, and using this as a framework to examine families and relationships, this unit will give you an opportunity to explore the shifting and subtle ways in which people themselves, researchers, policy-makers and professionals make sense of the idea of ‘family’. In the process, you will also consider how issues of power, inequalities, and values are integral to any understanding of family meanings. As you will see, ideas of family can be imbued with some of our deepest personal desires and fears, as well as being a major focus for wider social anxieties and concerns. Families are thus crucial to any understanding of social lives, both for us as individuals and for social processes more widely. While families are sometimes described as if they somehow stand ‘outside’ of society, from another point of view, families and relationships may be seen as the very core of social life, binding individuals into the fabric of society.

This material is from our archive and is an adapted extract from Family Meanings (D270) which is no longer taught by The Open University. If you want to study formally with us, you may wish to explore other courses we offer in this subject area [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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