Family Life & Systems Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan provides teachers with activities for teaching psychology students about family systems. Students will watch a video lesson and participate in a collaborative activity about types of families.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Identify types of families.
  • Describe factors that determine a family's impact on child development.
  • Use content-specific language when describing families.


This lesson will take approximately 45-90 minutes.

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text (e.g., how Madison defines faction in Federalist No. 10).


  • blended family
  • extended family
  • matrifocal family
  • nuclear family
  • patrifocal family

Lesson Instructions

Activate prior knowledge by asking students to jot down the names of the people in their family. Have students turn and talk to their partner about their family. Guide students to recognize that some people include grandparents, cousins, and step-parents, and some do not. Explain that today's lesson will be about different types of families.

Watch the lesson Family Systems: Definition and Types as a class. Pause at 1:16.

Have students create a 4-column chart. Label the columns: nuclear family, matrifocal/patrifocal family, extended family, and blended family.

Watch the 'Nuclear Family' section of the video. Pause at 2:10 to fill out the nuclear family column of the chart. Encourage students to define and provide examples from either their own families or pop culture that remind them what a nuclear family is. Ask the following:

  • How has research altered what psychologists believe about families?

Watch the 'Matrifocal Family' section of the video. Pause at 3:25 so that students can fill out the column for matrifocal/patrifocal family. Ask:

  • What are some events that might result in a matrifocal or patrifocal family?

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