No matter how it is organized, the family is the most basic social institution in all societies. Indeed, the family or more specifically a married couple, or other group of adult kinfolk who co-operate economically, share in child rearing, and who usually share a common dwelling can be traced back two million years (Conway 1990). The way the family is structured, how it functions, and who is considered a member may be factors that differ from one society to another, but all societies expect some form of family to be responsible for regulating long term relationships, reproduction, child development, and the care of aged relatives.
Some people speak of the family being under siege today. Such crisis mongering is a function of an enduring monolithic bias in theorizing, studying and treating families. The family is changing now much as it has changed before to adapt to different situations. Not one family structure is 'correct' for all times and all places. The main purpose of this course is to help students make sense of the processes of change and tradition, diversity and continuity manifest in families today, so that they may make informed choices in their 'family careers', and look at the families of other Canadians from a position of greater understanding and respect. Sociological constructs are used to explain the causes and consequences of the transformations in family life.