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What Are the Stages of Family Life?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

Each family goes through different stages during their time together, and each stage will be difficult or stressful in some way. After leaving home, most adults will pair off in couple relationships and eventually have children. These couples, along with their families, will then have to adjust to life with small children and teenagers. When these children leave home, the couples will be often be faced with more challenges, and they will often begin to get reacquainted with each other as romantic partners. The aging parents will then typically start dealing with health problems, retirement, and possibly family deaths.

The beginning stages of family life are commonly believed to begin when adult children leave home. During this time, they will be armed with knowledge and beliefs from their schools and parents. Some of them will go to college, and some will begin to support themselves. They will truly begin to recognize themselves as individuals at this time.

A family in the parenting stage.
A family in the parenting stage.

Relationships and coupling are the next stages of family life. Typically, two adults will find each other and become what is commonly referred to as a couple. Generally, they will be committed to each other, and begin to experience the joys and comfort of a serious intimate relationship. Some will also experience heartache, while others will go on to the next stages of family life.

Parents my experience the "empty nest syndrome" when their children leave home.
Parents my experience the "empty nest syndrome" when their children leave home.

Marriage is traditionally considered to be the next stage of family life. Today, however, it is typically considered perfectly acceptable for a couple to cohabitate, or live together, for a period of time. This is typically the preferred choice of gay or lesbian couples. Whichever option is chosen, the families of the two individuals are often joined together in one large extended family.

Grandparents must adjust to their new roles.
Grandparents must adjust to their new roles.

As the stages of family life continue, the couple will often decide to have children. If this can not be done naturally, adoption may be considered. After the children arrive, the parents will begin to face new challenges, including financial worries and self-doubt. Many times, however, the joys of being a parent will cancel out most negative feelings. Grandparents will also find themselves trying to adjust to their new roles.

As the children grow older, they will begin to face new challenges along with their parents. The teenage years are often considered one of the more turbulent stages of family life. Hormones and puberty must be dealt with, for instance. Children will often find themselves changing physically and emotionally. Peer relationships will also change, which can be extremely difficult for some.

Eventually, most teenagers will leave home, just as their parents did years before. Some parents will find this situation to be very difficult, and it is sometimes referred to as the “empty nest syndrome.” On the other hand, some parents adjust very well. During this time, they are often able to rediscover their partners romantically. They can also spend more time focusing on their careers.

As they grow older, parents will often be faced with a number of challenges. They may be faced with retirement, for instance, or the deaths of their own parents. Many will also face becoming grandparents for the first time, which can be quite a shock for some. Health issues will also begin to pop up for many.

Menopause, high blood pressure, weight gain, and arthritis are some of the health problems that older people may face. The aging parents are not usually the only ones affected by these health issues. The older children, who are also nearing the later stages of family life, may be faced with the financial and physical demands of caring for their aging parents until their deaths.

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Discussion Comments


@browncoat - That might be true, but it still doesn't mean that people should pressure others to have children or even to get married. More and more people are realizing they just don't really want either of those things and frankly I think that's fantastic. If, in the future, children are only born to people who really want them and marriages are only entered by people who have truly thought it through and know they want to be married, that can only be a good thing.


@irontoenail - Having kids is a tough one though, because more and more often it seems like people put it off and then realize that they have left it too late and are no longer going to be able to have their own children.

I don't think anyone should be rushed into having kids and I think it sucks when women in particular feel like there is a lot of pressure around it, but unfortunately there actually is a biological clock and once it runs out there is no going back.


Something that I think is really important for people to remember is that there is no "right" age for certain life events to happen. I know a lot of my friends seemed to come under a huge amount of pressure from their families when they didn't conform to expectations about when they wanted to get married, or have children. Kids, in particular, seemed to be a big deal with some families and my friends were always complaining about their relatives hinting that it was time for them to start settling down and having children.

I just think this causes so much stress for no reason. Putting pressure on people doesn't make them want to do something. If anything, it might put them off.

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    • A family in the parenting stage.
      A family in the parenting stage.
    • Parents my experience the "empty nest syndrome" when their children leave home.
      By: Tatyana Gladskih
      Parents my experience the "empty nest syndrome" when their children leave home.
    • Grandparents must adjust to their new roles.
      By: Paul Moore
      Grandparents must adjust to their new roles.