This article is the third part of a three-part series describing the traditional names for the various members of one's family.
The first article discussed the phrase "the natural objects of one's bounty," which means the closest surviving members of one's family. The first article discussed how ancestors are described in terms of parent relationship and lineal descendants are described in terms of child relationship.
The second article discussed collateral relatives such as cousins and the distinction between being related by blood (consanguinity) and by marriage (affinity).
Traditionally, marriage was always understood to be between a man and a woman. During the marriage of a man and a woman, the male spouse is known as the husband and the female spouse is known as the wife. The father of one's spouse is one's father-in-law. The mother of one's spouse is one's mother-in-law. A son-in-law is the spouse of one's daughter. A daughter-in-law is the spouse of one's son. A brother-in-law is the brother of one's spouse. A sister-in-law is the sister of one spouse. Other in-laws are referred to by their relationship to a closer relative (e.g., "my daughter-in-law's sister").
A stepparent is the person one's parent marries after the termination of his or her relationship with the other parent. A male stepparent is a stepfather. A female stepparent is a stepmother. Stepbrothers and stepsisters are male and female children, respectively, from a stepparent's prior relationship. A child of one spouse from another relationship is one's stepchild. Collectively, more than one stepchild are known as stepchildren.
When one's parent has a child with one's stepparent, the child is known as one's half-brother, if the child is a male, or half-sister, if the child is a female. Because half-brothers and half-sisters have only one common natural parent, they are said to be related of the half-blood. Because full-blooded brothers and sisters have two common natural parents, they are said to be related of the whole-blood. Where a man with sons from a prior marriage marries a woman with daughters from a prior marriage--the "Brady Bunch" situation--none of the males are related by blood to any of the females.
The only generally accepted meaning for the term "family" is a group of people with a common affiliation. Some use the term to refer to parents and their children. Some use the term to refer to blood relatives. Some use the term to refer to in-laws, and so on. The term "family" has no generally accepted meaning other than a group of people with a common affiliation.
Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.