Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Family Definition:

The central, fundamental unit of society responsible for the primary development and socialization of children.

Related Terms: Child, Common Law Marriage, Parent, Marriage

The Riyadh Guidelines, at §12:

"... the family is the central unit responsible for the primary socialization of children...."

The 1999 African Union's African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, at §18(1):

"The family shall be the natural unit and basis of society. it shall enjoy the protection and support of the State for its establishment and development."

Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

familyThe preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989):

"... the family (is) the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children....

"The child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding...."

In a 2005 interpretative document in regards to the 1989 Convention, the United Nations added;

"The preamble to the Convention refers to the family as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children. The Committee recognizes that family here refers to a variety of arrangements that can provide for young children’s care, nurturance and development, including the nuclear family, the extended family, and other traditional and modern community-based arrangements, provided these are consistent with children’s rights and best interests."1

In Hendriks v Netherlands:

"The idea of the family must necessarily embrace the relations between parents and child. Although divorce legally ends a marriage, it cannot dissolve the bond uniting father - or mother - and child~ this bond does not depend on the continuation of the parents' marriage."

Perhaps a little too enthusiastically, the House of Lords used these words in Huang v Secretary of State for the Home Department at ¶18:

"Human beings are social animals. They depend on others. Their family, or extended family, is the group on which many people most heavily depend, socially, emotionally and often financially. There comes a point at which, for some, prolonged and unavoidable separation from this group seriously inhibits their ability to live full and fulfilling lives."


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