The family is the child's first group. However, defining the family is not an easy matter given today's diversity of family types, some of which have only recently become possible as a result of advances in reproductive technology. At a minimum, scholars agree that the family is a social unit in which members identify with one another and share economic responsibilities, social and emotional commitments, memories of common experiences, and expectations for continuity over time and a common future. These elements characterize many nonfamily groups as well.

Families are a unique kind of group because the members of typical families—parents and children—do not choose their group members and do not typically leave the group. In most families, unlike other groups, members are also biologically related. Like ...

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