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Extended Family: Definition & Structure

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Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Over 16% of the U.S. population lives in an extended family. In this lesson, we'll explore the structure, advantages and disadvantages associated with the extended family system.

The Extended Family

Think about the popular 1970s television show The Waltons and the more recent television show Family Matters. What do these two television shows have in common? If you guessed that both shows contain extended families, you'd be correct.

An extended family is a family structure that consists of two or more adults that are from different generations of the same family, who maintain a household together. This includes sharing the responsibilities of the household. For example, The Waltons, Grandma and Grandpa Walton live in the same house as their son, John, and his wife, Olivia. Together they share many of the responsibilities of the household, including planning and preparing meals, cleaning the house, and raising John and Olivia's seven children.

In Family Matters, Harriet and Carl Winslow are a married couple who live in a house with their two children; Carl's mother, Estelle; Harriet's sister, Rachel Crawford; and Rachel's young son, Richie - and everyone works together to solve problems.

The extended family can be compared to the nuclear family, which consists of two parents and their children who live in a household together. For example, in the television show King of the Hill, Hank Hill and his wife Peggy raise their teenage son, Bobby, and together they represent a nuclear family.

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  • 0:00 The Extended Family
  • 1:24 Extended Family Structure
  • 1:47 Advantages & Disadvantages
  • 2:51 Lesson Summary
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Extended Family Structure

The core feature of an extended family is that there are adults from multiple generations of a family living together under one roof. Other than this basic requirement, the structure of an extended family can vary. The structure of an extended family can include grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even great-grandparents, great-aunts, great-uncles, and great-cousins

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