Family systems, like biological organisms, evolve with time and circumstance.
It seems readily evident from an examination of the nature and role of the family in the developing world that form may indeed follow function. Many sociological studies conducted in recent years have indicated that the nuclear family is found at both the primitive and modern stages of economic evolution. The nuclear family predominated
in early societies with subsistence hunting and gathering economies where food supplies were uncertain, and still predominates in modern industrial societies where the marketplace requires the geographical mobility of small, nuclear systems. This pattern
of family roles in society, established over long centuries, still applies in most of the developing nations of the Third World.
Examinations of the sociological histories of various areas of Europe, Asia, and South America provide us with useful examples of the durability of the nuclear family. The nuclear family has always been important in the Third World societies of Eastern Europe, where households have been small and based on monogamous marriage, even where polygamy has been permitted.
Ties to both parents' relatives have been and still are respected, even when descent has been traced through only one line. Bonds between parent and child have always been legally and emotionally important. (Wolfe 198)
Many families in Third World nations are products of discontinuity. The intensification of agricultural production and the development of social systems based on land ownership have been important developments, as have changes in inheritance systems, which have evolved towards passing wealth to daughters as well as to sons. These inheritance systems, common to South America, favored the members of the immediate family over the lineage structure that controlled property in African systems. (Allan and Crow 102)
It is of interest to note that the family and its place in...