After reading this material you will be able to:

  • understand the functions of the family.
  • reflect on your own family history and your family's current situation in terms of family functions.
  • discuss family functions with service users and their families with particular reference to the changes in family functions that might emerge in response to mental distress.

The family has several functions as a social unit. These functions change over time and according to changes in the family and changes in the life of family. For example, the emergence of mental health problems can change many functions and tasks in the family and between family members.

The functions of a family are sexual, reproductive, social and economic. Sociologist Popenoe defines family functions as procreation and socialization of children, sexual regulation, economic cooperation, provision of care, affection and companionship (Georgas 2003).

Family functions and how they change is also described in this Youtube-video. The functions of the family according to Osher and Osher (2002, p 8) is to:

"provide love, guidance, care, support and otherwise nurture all its members"

The emergence of Mental distress have several impacts on family's life and the family functions. Please, look at this TEDx Talks by Dr Sederer who discusses this issue.

  • What kind of family functions are there in your family at the moment?
  • What about in your childhood family?
  • Would you like to change something in the functions of your family? How might you go about making those changes?
  • What about the other members of your family? How do you think that they feel about current family functions?
  • Think about your parents and grandparents, how would they have described the functions of their families?
  • Think about the situation when someone in the family is experiencing mental distress, how might this affect the functions of the family?

Family function is one of the core concepts that we have briefly discussed in this eLearning material. The concepts help to understand what is happening in the family and by reflecting on our own family, you get a deeper understanding of the concepts. However, it does not mean that families are similar, they are all unique. When there are things affecting family functions, such as mental distress, the functions of the family may change or be interrupted in some way.

Beavers, R. & Hampson, RB. 2000. The Beaver Systems Model of Family Functioning. Journal of Family Therapy 22, 128-143.

Osher, TW. & Osher, DM. 2002. The Paradigm Shift to True Collaboration With Families. Journal of Child and Family Studies 11 (1) pp. 47-60.

Georgas, J. 2003. Family: Variations and changes across cultures. In W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S. A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler (Eds.). Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Center for Cross-Cultural Research. Western Washington University. Bellingham, Washington USA.

Angley M, Divney A, Magriples U & Kershaw T. 2015. Social support, family functioning and parenting competence in adolescent parents. Maternal and Child Health Journal 19(1), 67-73.

Basharpoor, S. & Sheykholeslami, A. 2015. The Relation of Marital Adjustment and Family Functions With Quality of Life in Women. Research Reports. Europe's Journal of Psychology 11(3), 432-441

Hsiao CY & Tsai YF. 2015.Factors of caregiver burden and family functioning among Taiwanese family caregivers living with schizophrenia. Journal of Clinical Nursing 24(11-12), 1546-56.

Koutra K, Triliva S, Roumeliotaki T, Lionis C, Vgontzas AN. 2015. Identifying the socio-demographic and clinical determinants of family functioning in Greek patients with psychosis International Journal of Social Psychiatry 61(3), 251-64.

The European Commission support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.