Redefining family

Associate Professor Carolyn Mendez-Luck specializes in Family Sciences within the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. According to her departmental profile, Mendez-Luck focuses on the caregiver role in families, and how that can be expressed in aging and developing Latinx families.

Austin Schaeffer, Practicum Contributor

Weekend aims to reach all, recognizes different family dynamics.

Many different kinds of structures and dynamics make up a family. With Oregon State University’s Spring Family Weekend coming up, the Beaver community searches to reevaluate the meaning of family and discover what this weekend is all about.

Hosted by OSU Program Council, Spring Family Weekend aims to connect families and showcase OSU, said Delaney Stock, OSUPC Family Weekend coordinator. 

“(It’s) a celebration of bringing all of these loved ones together… being able to show those loved ones what we care about, what we do here, and giving them a look into people’s everyday lives at Oregon State, and I love that,” Stock said. 

OSUPC reinvented the name of this event from “Mom and Dad’s Weekend” to “Spring Family Weekend” last year in an effort to make the event more inclusive to all families, said Kayla Gilkison, lead coordinator of Spring Family Weekend. 

“Last year we made the full change to Family Weekend, and we really tried to make the push to make it not gendered… we wanted to make it so everyone could come, and maybe if you don’t have a mom or a dad, then you have the option to bring anyone that you consider to be your family,” Gilkison said. 

Of the student body, 41 percent are non-resident students, according to the OSU Enrollment Summary of winter 2018. Because of this, several students may encounter difficulties bringing family to the university, said Stock. 

OSUPC has made significant strides towards breaking down barriers and really inviting students to have the chance to bring someone that is close to their heart, Stock said. 

“As an Oregon State community, something that we all share and hold pride in is being inclusive and taking care of our fellow Beavers for who we are, and what we are,” Stock said. “What comes with that is who means the most to you? I think it is important that we continue to reflect that inclusivity as a group that is putting on such a large scale event.” 

“We have such a close-knit community around OSU that I think it’s great to really be enveloped in that (inclusivity),” Gilkison added.

Family is an important resource and support system for success at OSU, according to Dr. Kelly Chandler, assistant professor of Human Development and Family Sciences. 

Chandler referenced the textbook she uses in her Family Studies class, “Family Interaction: A Multigenerational Developmental Perspective” to define what family means. 

“There are many ways to define family. A more inclusive way to define family that captures the complex and diverse types of families today is by focusing on their primary functions. Family can be defined as at least two individuals who share history, have emotional ties with one another, and depend on one another to meet each other’s needs,” Chandler summarized from the textbook. 

Family is important because it provides a sense of identity, support, and security to navigate through life, Chandler said. Like Spring Family Weekend, families overall are changing and becoming more diverse than they ever have been, and having shared, face-to-face time with them can yield a greater sense of connection and support for college students.

“Fewer than half of children in the U.S. live with a “traditional” family of two biological heterosexual parents in their first marriage. More adults are delaying marriage, cohabiting (or living with other extended family), and having children outside of marriage. In addition, the number of same-sex and multiracial marriages are increasing,” Chandler said.

Family dynamics have experienced growth and change throughout the years, according to Carolyn Mendez-Luck, associate professor in wdwHealth Management and Policy and HDFS.

“The formation of families, how they are formed, and the configurations of families have really changed. The number of children that people have has gone down, and people are waiting to have children” Mendez-Luck said. “But now we have families that stem beyond the heterosexual family, so I think what we consider normative now has really expanded. We have same-sex families, and single parent families that are much more accepted.”

Mendez-Luck has seen this transformation in family dynamic reflected in the OSU community and students. 

“OSU really cares about student experience and about wanting students to feel comfortable like a family. I really am impressed by that. I think that OSU has tried really hard to make students feel welcome and as part of that, make their families feel welcome,” Mendez-Luck said.

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