Traditional Family: Definition & Concept

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  • 0:02 Definitions
  • 1:54 Advantages & Disadvantages
  • 2:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

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

Over 20% of the U.S. population live in a traditional family system. Explore the structure, advantages, and disadvantages associated with the traditional family system.


Think about the popular 1980's television show The Cosby Show and the more recent cartoon show Family Guy. What do these two television shows have in common? If you guessed that both shows depict traditional families, you would be correct.

A traditional family is a family structure that consists of a man, woman, and one or more of their biological or adopted children. In most traditional families, the man and woman are husband and wife. In The Cosby Show, viewers watch doctor Heathcliff 'Cliff' Huxtable and his wife, attorney Clair Huxtable, raise their five biological children in Brooklyn, New York. In the show Family Guy, married couple Peter and Lois Griffin raise their three children in their home.

The percentage of traditional families in the U.S. has steadily declined over the past 40 years. In 1970, traditional families accounted for 40% of U.S. households. By 1990, the percentage of traditional families had declined to 25.6%. In 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that only 20% of all U.S. households were traditional families. Another term used to refer to a traditional family is a nuclear family.

The traditional family is different than the nontraditional family, which is a blanketed term used to describe all other types of families that are not traditional. If you have ever seen the television show Modern Family, you have been exposed to several different types of nontraditional family structures.

Nontraditional families include:

  • Cohabitation families, or unwed couples who live in the same household
  • Single-parent families, which consist of one parent and one or more biological or adopted children
  • Extended families, which consist of two or more adults from different generations of the same family who maintain a household together
  • Same-sex families, which consist of couples of the same sex and one or more children

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are several benefits to living in a traditional family. They include:

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