An extended family is typically a clan, which consists of parents such as father, mother, and children, aunts, cousins, and half-sisters, living in the same community. Other types include the extended family and the stem families. The extended family consists of many members, often numbering in the hundreds, who share common interests, values, traditions, and beliefs. Extended families frequently live in the same neighborhood or region. They may be ethnic – Germans, Irish, Italians, or others – or perhaps from another country entirely.
The extended group usually has birthdays, graduations, weddings, birth, death, and other celebrations. It’s an informal social group with which the adults participate in family events, such as parties and holidays. Extended-family events include holidays, vacations, reunions, birthdays, graduations, marriages, divorces, adoptions, and others. Many cousins share the same birthday, for example.
Extended families are frequently separated by marriage or by death, so that the survivors have time to mourn without having their personal ties torn asunder by the shared loss. Often the surviving children are glad when their grandparents pass away so that they can grow up with other relatives who are closely related. Grandparents may be treated as “aunt” or “uncles,” and sometimes “step-sisters.” Children often feel closer to their grandparents than to their parents, particularly when they do not have children of their own. Aunts and uncles often play the role of step-sisters, sometimes taking on the role of full or partial mothers, but they don’t have children of their own.
The extended family household is not just made up of relatives; it also includes extended friends. People who spend a lot of time with the extended family household may become close friends. Relationships between extended family members often cross generations, bringing people from different backgrounds together. It is not uncommon for grandparents to be close friends to their own children. Some relationships become so intimate that one or both grandparents pass away, while the remaining child (Ren) become deeply upset when this happens.
Extended families are usually what we think of when we imagine what a nuclear family looks like. People who live together in a nuclear family often live together in marriage and/or have adopted children. They also often go on secondaries, meaning that each has a responsibility to fulfill in the other’s absence (e.g., picking up the children when they go on vacation). Children do not usually live with grandparents; they usually live with their own nanny.
Children do have their own bedrooms, though, unless they live with their aunts and uncles. When children live with their grandparents, most of the time they do not have to share their bedrooms. Their bedroom is theirs to do as they please, including when they sleep. If they do have to share a bedroom, however, they get to choose what kind of mattress they want. An extended family may have a traditional structure, but most adopt a more eclectic set up.