Families are a natural social structure. The widely accepted definition of family is “a group of two or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption” (Medalie & Cole-Kelly, 2002, p. 1277). This definition is inclusive of the many different structures of families to allow for big, small, single parent, dual parent, gay and lesbian, heterosexual, adoptive, and biological. The family plays an integral part in the health of its members, which often leads to the stretching of the family unit beyond this definition to include extended family. The family unit is more than a collection of units. Culture and values play a large role in how families react and deal with issues related to health care. “Health behaviors, values, and attitudes are learned in the family” (Freidman, Bowden, & Jones, 2003, p. 13).
A basic function of the family unit is health promotion and prevention. Health is defined as a state of physical and emotional well-being (Ross, Mirowsky, & Goldsteen, 1990). Families have a relationship among the members that is multilayered and based on their shared history and perceptions of the world. This relationship works together to mitigate stressors that affect the unit. “The interrelationships found in a family system are so intricately tied together that a change in any one part inevitably results in changes in the entire system” (Freidman, Bowden, & Jones, 2003, p. 7). Healthy families systems adapt to the changing stressors of the individual units to mitigate the affects of the stressor on the system. This might be seen through prevention tactics such as vaccination to prevent disease or healthy lifestyle choices to encourage well being.
Concept used in your area of practice
The negative psychological effects of hospitalization of children have been documented leading those practicing in pediatrics to view the child in the context of the family. Family