Addressing the issue of family, more particularly changing families, immediately invokes the following question: What is family? It is not by accident that in scholarly work as well as in social and political action, including the organization of the International Year of the Family, the definition of family has been at the center of attention (United Nations, 1992). Indeed, the dramatic changes occurring over the last decades, have put the notion of family itself into question. Out of the discussion, two new elements have emerged:

1. Recognition of the plurality of family forms, to the effect that many would address the issue in plural form and rather would refer to families than to family. The diversity was a focus of attention far more than the unifying denominator. Yet, a common characteristic basic to all family forms, ranging from the traditional family to cohabitation to so-called LAT-relations (living apart together), can be identified: They all serve as person-supporting networks.