New research from a University of Indiana sociologist suggests that Americans define a collection of people as a family if children are involved:
“Children provide this, quote, ‘guarantee’ that move you to family status,” Powell said. “Having children signals something. It signals that there really is a commitment and a sense of responsibility in a family.”
For instance, 39.6 percent in 2010 said that an unmarried man and woman living together were a family — but give that couple some kids and 83 percent say that’s a family.
Of course, the definition of family has changed over time. The “nuclear family” developed several hundred years ago as people moved away from a broader definition of family that included extended family members or other members of a community.
One can see this recent definition in action in many churches. Having children changes the status of couples from a social grouping not worthy of extra attention to a very important social grouping.