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Our family plays a critical role in our personal development, socialisation and sense of self. It is one of the oldest institutions in society and although the definition of family has evolved over generations, it is still as important and as relevant as it ever was.

Today (15th May) is the International Day of Families; a global day of observance that promotes awareness of the social and economic issues related to families worldwide. This annual campaign is led by the United Nations (UN) who acknowledge the role of family in society and work to address the rapidly changing needs and challenges they face.

The traditional definition of a family unit typically involved a married adult couple – a man and a woman – with one or more children. More recently this definition has evolved to become more inclusive and representative of modern society in its current form. Now we acknowledge that the family dynamic can vary greatly and can include two parents of the same sex, a single parent, a childless couple, adopted children, half siblings and step-family members.

According to data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there were 19.4 million families living in the UK in 2020; an increase of 7.4% since 2010. Of those, around 15% were single parent families. The report also revealed that, while married and civil partnered couple families were still the most common family type, this dynamic is actually declining year on year.

Regardless of a family’s structural makeup, their most important function is to meet the basic needs of each individual member, as well as providing a stable and supportive environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging and acceptance. A healthy family dynamic helps to promote positive mental, emotional and physical wellbeing, which plays a significant role in an individual’s development, including how they interact with others outside of their family unit and how they will make their contribution to society. There is no evidence to suggest that this isn’t possible outside of the traditional family structure. It is far more beneficial to live within a secure and loving family that doesn’t conform to the socially expected norms than within a dysfunctional and disruptive ‘nuclear family’.

Social and economic issues such as financial hardship, poor housing, inefficient healthcare, gender inequality, domestic violence, divorce, infidelity and substance abuse can often lead to familial instability, the consequences of which can be especially damaging for children. They may feel unsafe in their environment, suffer neglect, ill health, feel isolated and confused, and question their identity and their place within the family. In the long-term this can cause them to experience difficulty with socialisation and affect how they form relationships. The UN’s campaign around how these issues impact families and the subsequent effect on society seeks to heighten public awareness and encourage governments around the world to address these very pressing needs to ensure a brighter future for families of all types around the world.

The International Day of Families also provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on our own families and what they mean to us. Whatever form your family takes, it is important to recognise how they have contributed towards making you the person you are today.

AlphaBiolabs offer a wide range of DNA relationship testing services for both the public and for the legal sector covering various members of the family, including mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles and grandparents. To find out more, please contact our friendly Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

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