chapter  1
The family and its dynamics
ByMargot Waddell
Pages 16

When we speak of ’the family’ we are referring in a very general way to a group of people whose relationship to one another is determined by ties of kinship. Yet the assumptions behind any particular reference are bound to be highly specific within a given historical and cultural context. In our society, for example, the family might normatively be described as a socio-economic unit organized around a heterosexual pair. Even more specifically, the meaning of the word ’family’ for any single individual will be inseparable from his or her experience of their own family. So that when we examine individual families and their modes of relating we find ourselves far from the normative definitions of the historian, sociologist or anthropologist (in relation to whom any one family will seem as often the exception as the rule). We find ourselves nearer to a much more personal situation, relating to a group which may be characterized by the nature of the interactions between individual members; by the dynamic processes which underlie the more evident structural bonds, processes which can be seen to be so common, so specific, so recognizable as to be given a label - ’family dynamics’ .