Family is a western term used to describe a domesticated group of people linked together by descent. Todays American family is much more egalitarian than families structures of the passed. Women enjoy a position of respect higher than ever before. Families today are typically started as a result of two people meeting informally and then eventually going through the courtship process and getting married. This was not the case in ancient Rome. Rome was an extremly Patriarchal society, males had all the power. In Rome, families were second to a persons role as a tax payer and citizen willing to die for the empire. The purpose of the Roman family was to carry on the family line so the spirits of the dead could be honored. To strengthen and form political alliances, Roman men with fertile wives would often divorce their wives and pass them on to an ally to be remarried to father his children. Slaves were also part of the family household. The oldest male member of the Roman family was called the pater familias and the younger male members of the family had to do business with his name unless they were emancipated.
In China, the family was seen as a core aspect of the culture. To this day, the Chinese exchange family name ahead of first name when introducing themselves. Chinese families are also Patriarchal, however when the oldest female member is widowed, she enjoyed a position of power. Daughters were often sold into slavery in poorer Chinese families.
In Japan, Family was thought of existing unceasingly, regardless of birth and death. The family existed in the past and it will continue to exist in the future. Members of the family think of each other as sharing a bond, not in blood, but as partners in a shared responsibility of maintaining the family as an institution.