The family as a social institution regulates sexual intercourse, assigns responsibility for children, conserves lines of descent, and orders wealth and inheritance. It assigns roles for the division of labour for everyday living, supports the roles of its members in the external economy, participates with other institutions in the socialization of the coming generation, and plays a role in the physical and psychological welfare of family members. The family both forms and expresses the identity and character of its members. The processes of urbanization, the destruction of the extended family and the secularization of society are working against the family playing these crucial roles in society.
The fragmentation of the community common in Western society might be reversed if family lifestyles were formally focused on maintaining outside interests (a role once played by the church or by agricultural groups). Unfortunately, the family is often unable to sustain an interest in the affairs of the community, and is lost as a creative force to the town.