Extended family

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An extended family consists of a larger group of three or more generations of time related persons. Synonyms are clan and kin . The counterpart to the extended family is the small family , which only consists of parents with children. In more recent media publications, the term is also incorrectly used for multi-child families or core families with more than two to three children.

Forms of the extended family

Two generations can already form an extended family, if z. B. Related couples raise children. With nieces and nephews, three couples by marriage (for example) can already form a large family network, which enables diverse group dynamic relationships within the family in nearby apartments .

An extended family can be formed by parents with their children and grandchildren, as well as uncles , aunts or other relatives. In the past, servants were often counted as part of the house or family. If there is little mobility, the family members live together in a house or in a settlement . Often there are economic relationships between the family members, occasionally an economic unit is formed, e.g. B. exists in common agriculture , a craft or a family business .

In the narrower sense of a family living relatively close together, the “multilocal multigenerational family” was examined and, based on the data from the family survey from 1988, it was found that “the number of family groups comprising more than two generations rose from just under 5% in individual households to around 20% of all Family constellations grow when the households are fictitiously expanded to include the neighborhood ”. According to the 2005 microcensus , just under one percent of private households in Germany are from more than two generations. Living together in close proximity, possibly in different apartments under one roof, was not recorded.

In the industrialized countries , family planning through the use of birth control pills has contributed to the “disappearance” of large families since the 1970s. This is clearly visible there in the population statistics through the incision in the birth curve called the pill kink . In the industrialized countries, large families definitely still play a role in all classes, although there is a clear accumulation in the upper class, which is not represented in percentage terms, and among people without school-leaving qualifications. This suspected phenomenon is not easily accessible to a sociological analysis, so that large families appear as "disappeared". On the other hand, they are still widespread in countries with a predominantly agricultural economic structure and a largely lacking social system , because children are the parents' “pension provision” (cf. family (sociology) ).

Extended families can grow to considerable sizes within a few generations. At family meetings of the Weizsäcker family , more than 100 members of the extended family meet at regular intervals. In societies that allow polygamy , family associations could turn out to be very large within just three generations. The largest family in the world is considered to be the family of the Indian Ziona, leader of a Christian sect , who lived in one house in 2011 with 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law and 33 grandchildren.


Proportion of married couples with 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 and more children, by year of marriage (Germany or FRG, 1900–1972)

In Central Europe, the number and size of the former large families is often overestimated. In the Middle Ages , the family was not significantly larger than it is today. This has the following causes:

  • Up until the 20th century maternal and child mortality was very high, with the number of children born being higher than it is today. For example, in Bavaria in 1832–1835, out of 1,000 live births, 302 children died in their first year of life, and between 1901–1905 240 children died.
  • As a result, these families were at most twice as big as they are today. The average household size in Bavaria from 1818 to 1871 was 4.6 people, rose briefly to 4.7 people in 1900 and fell to 4.3 people by 1925.
  • This fact also contributed to the fact that the male marriage age in the country was over 28 years and that of women was 27 years (after falling in the meantime, it is now similar to 100 years ago). Due to the low life expectancy and the earlier menopause , only about 15 years per woman were available to carry children.

Another aspect is the proportion of the population who were barely able to get married . For example, journeyman craftsmen were often forbidden to marry before a master's position became available. People from outside the family lived and worked in many of the earlier households , which makes the structure of the “extended families” difficult to understand. In 1910 servants lived in 20% of the households in Bavaria, 11% of which were subtenants or bed-walkers . In master families , journeymen often lived in the house. In the German Reich in 1882 1.282 million servants lived in the employer's house; In 1925 there were 1.016 million and in 1939 it was still 995,000. Sociologically prevailed in the past, small families and more complex "mixed" or "binuclear" or stepfamilies ago. The alleged transition from the extended to the small family is incorrect in that it only affects the number of children and hardly the number of generations.

Family forms

Film, television and culture

  • The Waltons is an American family series that deals with the simple, difficult life of an extended family at the time of the Great Depression. The series ran from 1972 to 1981 with a total of 221 episodes.
  • The series The Denver Clan deals with the competition between the fictional extended families Carrington and Colby.
  • The series Dallas deals with the fictional extended family Ewing.
  • The tragedy Romeo and Juliet is about the love of Romeo and Juliet, who belong to two hostile extended families, the Montagues (Romeo) and the Capulets (Juliet), respectively.

See also


  • Hartmut Kasten: Siblings. Role models, rivals, confidants. Reinhardt, Munich 2003 - 5th edition, 192 pages, ISBN 349701656X .
  • Kurt Bierschock: Large families. An overview . In: Martin Textor (Red.)

Web links

Wiktionary: extended family  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Compare definition in Duden https://www.duden.de/suchen/dudenonline/Gro%C3%9Ffamilie
  2. See e.g. B. https://xxl-familien.blogspot.de/ , http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/grossfamilien-drei-sind-besser-als-zwei-1208290.html?printPagedArticle=true # pageIndex_0
  3. ^ Jan H. Marbach: Relationships between children, parents and grandparents. (PDF; 210 kB) (No longer available online.) March 1998, archived from the original on March 30, 2013 ; Retrieved June 6, 2008 .
  4. See https://www.destatis.de/DE/Publikationen/Themati/Bevoelkerung/HaushalteMikrozensus/HaushalteFamilienGesundheitPresse5122119059004.pdf?__blob=publicationFile page 17. With regard to the coexistence of large families, however, it should be noted that here a large family that only consists of Parents and grandchildren, or siblings with children, counts as two-generation households, which make up 37% of households. On the other hand, a smaller family group consisting of grandmother, mother and daughter is already recorded in the three-generation households.
  5. Dr. Bernd Eggen, Harald Leschhorn: Abundance of children and education . Monthly Statistical Bulletin Baden-Württemberg 7/2004 ( PDF ( Memento from March 16, 2014 in the Internet Archive ))
  6. See e.g. B. http://www.stimme.de/hohenlohe/nachrichten/Trauer-um-Alt-Bundespraesident-Richard-von-Weizsaecker;art1919,3293905
  7. The world's biggest family: The man with 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren Daily Mirror, February 19, 2011; Man has 39 wives, nearly 100 children Reuters, February 22, 2011; World's largest family with 181 members live in 100-room, four-storey house in India Daily Mirror, October 21, 2011. For his name, see also sources under en: Ziona
  8. Data source: Bernd Camphausen: Effects of demographic processes on professions and costs in the health care system . Springer, Berlin a. a. 1983, ISBN 978-3-540-12694-2 , pp. 30 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  9. Der Spiegel , Edition Geschichte 1/2016: Family legends , page 34
  10. ^ Archive link ( Memento from November 26, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) Familienhandbuch.de