At one time the definition of a family would probably have read:-

At the head of a family there are the parents, who are not related to each other, but who are a man and woman, who are married to each other. The rest of this family is a collection of people that are all blood related, in one way or another. The family unit has undergone many changes over the years.

If you read your Bible, you will no doubt have read that, in the beginning there was Adam and Eve, who were the first couple.

Centuries ago, the family unit often consisted of Mum and Dad, numerous children and other, sundry relatives who shared the family home. This could mean that children lived in overcrowded conditions with their siblings, parents, grandparents and more. In general, the parents would be a married couple and they would stay this way come hell or high water.

Of course, with poor medical care, and times of war, many would be widowed young. This could lead to a re-marriage and for the poor children the introduction of a stepmother or stepfather and half-brothers and, or half-sisters. Although not all stepparents were bad, unfortunately many were. In the UK families, were the father had died young, ran the risk of being packed off to the work-house, for a life of drudgery.

Divorce, and living together outside of marriage, was not unknown, but was rare. Such couples would not have an easy time of it, especially if they had children.

In recent times, this unit has changed considerably and has been stretched to breaking point, many times, due to divorce, second, third or more marriages, children with varying parentage and so much more.

Since the sixties, in particular families in the western world have changed. Many couples no longer opt for marriage but instead live together, as long-term partners, often having children out of wedlock. Times have certainly changed and none of this is frowned upon, as it was in the past. In fact, on the whole, it is generally accepted as the norm these days.

Once the contraceptive pill became widely accepted and used in the early seventies, men and women found they could choose how many children they would have, and when. Larger families became rarer once birth control was more readily available, and a sensible approach seems to be to have just one or two children. In addition, Abortions are carried out in many countries but this practice is still quite controversial.

Single people, Mum's in particular, often raise their family almost single-handed. Some rely on the State for help, but there are those that want to be independent.

The family unit these days also includes Gay couple raising a family. This could be a child from a previous relationship or artificial insemination, for example.

The extended family has also changed in recent years. Once children knew almost everyone who lived close by and many neighbours would be Aunts, Uncles, or the like. These days families are often scattered around the globe. Some are simply working temporarily abroad or in another town, whilst others may have emigrated.

No matter what form the family takes, though, it is an important part of life. A good family unit is vital, especially for helping children develop and grow into well-adjusted adults. Whatever the size of your family, its people should be the main ones in this world that care about your health and well-being.

As the old adage states "Blood is thicker than water" and that is as true as it ever was.