The family life cycle provides a framework for understanding the passage of families through time. Each family goes through different stages of development, with emotional, intellectual, and social changes for each member of the family. Individual changes influence the family, and changes in the family structure (e.g., births, deaths, and marriages) influence individuals. The family life cycle affords a multidimensional context for understanding individual development and the impact of broader social systems on the family unit. This entry provides a general definition of the family unit and development, describes the stages of the family life cycle with specific attention to key emotional and structural changes undergirding each developmental phase, and outlines critiques of the family life cycle model. The entry concludes with a brief discussion ...

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