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The family is an early expedient and in many ways irrational. If the race had developed a special sexless class to be nurses, pedagogues, and slaves, like the workers among ants and bees, then the family would have been unnecessary. Such a division of labor would doubtless have involved evils of its own, but it would have obviated some drags and vexations proper to the family.

GEORGE SANTAYANA, The Life of Reason

Under any system of society ... the family holds the future in its bosom.

CHARLES FRANKLIN THWING, The Family: An Historical and Social Study

Woman is the salvation or destruction of the family. She carries its destinies in the folds of her mantle.

HENRI-FREDERIC AMIEL, journal, Dec. 11, 1872

In one family, all goes by two and two. If a member of it has any interest, he or she will confide it to some one other; but the rest know nothing. In another family, all feel what touches one; nothing is kept dark from the father and mother, brothers and sisters--all share. This family habit is by far the better, it strengthens the tie between the members, and makes the home one home.

CHARLES BUXTON, Notes of Thought

Marriage is to family what legs are to a table.

BETTY JANE WYLIE, Family: An Exploration

There is one class of men who from time to time have taken a keen and practical interest in the constitution of the Family, and they are the Statesmen. They have realized how intimately the welfare of the State depends upon the influence and nature of the Families from which it is constituted; and they have endeavoured that the State in turn should mould and influence the Family to its own purposes.


In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before the Family Dinner passed into history and fast foods took over. I knew its days were numbered the day our youngest propped my mouth open with a fork and yelled into it, "I want a cheeseburger and two fries and get it right this time." I just didn't serve meals with show business pizzazz.

ERMA BOMBECK, Family: The Ties that Bind--and Gag!

The dynamics and structures found in those groups called families in our society may not be evident in those groups called families in other places and times.

RONALD DAVID LAING, The Politics of the Family and Other Essays

Love, by reason of its passion, destroys the in-between which relates us to and separates us from others. As long as its spell lasts, the only in-between which can insert itself between two lovers is the child, love's own product. The child, this in-between, to which the lovers now are related and which they hold in common, is representative of the world in that it also separates them; it is an indication that they will insert a new world into the existing world. Through the child, it is as though the lovers return to the world from which their love had expelled them. But this new worldliness, the possible result and the only possibly happy ending of a love affair, is, in a sense, the end of love, which must either overcome the partners anew or be transformed into another mode of belonging together.

HANNAH ARENDT, The Human Condition

The trouble with the family is that children grow out of childhood, but parents never grow out of parenthood.

EVAN ESAR, The Comic Encyclopedia

Forms of family life vary from one society to another. There are no universal rules about who is considered to be "in" a family, who lives with whom, who is socially allowed to have sex with whom, who shares economic resources and who has responsibility for children.

MARILYN POOLE, Family: Changing Families, Changing Times

Families are nothing other than the idolatry of duty.

ANN OAKLEY, Taking It Like a Woman

Imitation both unconscious and conscious is par excellence the educational method of the family. It is plain that a considerable part of the adaptation of living beings to their environment, i.e., of beings that are born plastic, is passed on from generation to generation through imitation. Were this not so, much if not all of the road traversed by one generation would have to be travelled by the next generation from the very beginning and without short-cuts. Consequently there would be little chance for the novel adaptation, the propitious individual variation, that constitutes progress.

ELSIE WORTHINGTON CLEWS PARSONS, The Family: An Ethnographical and Historical Outline

It seems to be almost inevitable that the man who accepts a subordinate economic position in the Family degenerates into a loafer and a tyrant.


As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.

JOHN PAUL II, London Observer, Dec. 7, 1986

The family that stays together probably has only one car.

KNOFEL STATON, Check Your Homelife

Rampant nostalgia for the modern family system, or more precisely, for an idealized version of a 1950s Ozzie and Harriet image of the family, has become an increasingly potent ideological force in the United States, with milder versions evident in Canada and England. Fundamentalist Christians and right-wing Republicans spearheaded the profamily movement that abetted the Reagan "revolution" of the 1980s. By the 1994 electoral season, however, even President Clinton had embraced the ideology of an explicitly centrist campaign for family values led by a small group of social scientists. This ongoing campaign portrays family breakdown as the primary source of social malaise in the United States, blaming the decline of the married-couple family for everything from crime, violence, and declining educational standards to poverty, drug abuse, and sexually transmitted disease.

JUDITH STACEY, In the Name of the Family

If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.

BERNARD SHAW, preface, Immaturity

Whoever is acquainted with the cruel injustice and unjust subordination frequently manifested in the family, whoever sees matters of lasting and supreme importance relative to the beginning and continuance of the family determined by momentary fancy or unreasoning passion, cannot but desire the construction of a social fabric in which reason may rule with perfect justice.

CHARLES FRANKLIN THWING, The Family: An Historical and Social Study

There are certain functions that the family performs. In the first place the family provides society with an orderly means of reproduction, while at the same time the norms of marriage control the potentially disruptive forces of sexuality. Second, the family provides physical and economic support for the child during the early years of dependence. The child receives its primary socialization in the family, learning the essential ideas and values required for adult life.


You hear a lot of dialogue on the death of the American family. Families aren't dying. They're merging into big conglomerates.

ERMA BOMBECK, San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 1, 1978

Thus in modern times the family drifted on to the high seas, and the world of metaphor such a voyage suggests started to fix itself in the vocabulary of social analysis. Had the winds always blown so strongly as now? people would ask. Had the currents always been so powerful, the family so little able to navigate a separate course?

EDWARD SHORTER, The Making of the Modern Family

A family is a unit composed not only of children, but of men, women, an occasional animal, and the common cold.

OGDEN NASH, quoted in 20,000 Quips & Quotes

The great want in family life that strikes me is this, that there are so few tête-à-têtes. You live on from year's end to year's end, surrounded by those whom you love, and chatting together; but it is rare to be thrown alone with any one individual, and have really intimate talk with him or her. Yet the difference in value is immense between mere social chat, and that mingling of mind with mind, which is impossible if others are by. But the real fact is, that unless some effort is made for it, or unless circumstances are unusually favourable, the very members of the same family live, one might say, on parallel lines, without ever touching.

CHARLES BUXTON, Notes of Thought

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