Nuclear Family

You have probably heard the expression “nuclear family” a few times before, but what does it mean and where did this saying come from?

As part of our new crusade to answer all of your questions here on Versus-All we’ve taken it upon ourselves to address this one, so let’s get to it.

Nuclear Family Definition

A “nuclear family” can also be called an “elementary family”. It refers to a family that contains two parents and any number of children, which pretty much describes most families in the United States. The couple in this scenario is often married, but there are difference with regards to the children, with some descriptions referring only to biological children of the two parents and others including step children as well.

This is a typical family group and there is nothing unusual about the description or the term. However, that wasn’t always the case. The term refers to a household of parents and children that live as a separate group to other family members and this is where it differs. Hundreds of years ago, especially in parts of Europe, it was common for adults to remain in family homes or near to the family unit.

New families remained in contact with old families and they formed large units composing of several generations, each reliant on the one that went before and helping to nurture the ones that followed. The nuclear family is different because it’s an inclusive family that is focused on its own small, closely related group.

Where Did Nuclear Family Come From?

The term was first used sometime in the middle of the 20th century. It became common after the end of the Second World War, when a change in Western ideals caused a dramatic shift in the family group.

The term itself does not refer to “nuclear” as in the “nuclear bomb”, even though it seems to have been coined just a couple of years after the first atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Instead, the term refers to the nucleus as being the core, the centre, of something. This is to say that the nuclear family all form part of the same core, as opposed to suggesting that they are somehow related to the atomic bomb.

Of course, modern families are changing all of the time and are different to those that formed those early nuclear families. Divorce is more common, as is counselling and adoption. These can only be good changes, but there are also some negative changes, such as the chaos that follows family breakups and other family law issues (click here to learn more).

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