Family and individual

Last updated: 28 9 2018

Image Boken om Sverige
This material is from the book About Sweden.

What is a family? The answer to the question varies in different cultures and societies. In some parts of the world, the extended family or group you belong to is considered a part of the family. In Sweden, the family is usually considered to be only parents, siblings and children. What an individual is can also vary between cultures and societies. Two different ways of looking at individuals are an individualistic outlook and a collectivistic outlook.

Individualistic outlook

An individualistic outlook attaches more importsance to the individual than to the group. Every person is encouraged to have his/her own ideas and opinions, and to regard him/herself as an individual, responsible for his/her own life, happiness and future. This individuality comes first, while belonging to various groups comes second.

Collectivistic outlook

A collectivistic outlook means that the interests of the group are more important than those of the individual. What you do as a person affects the whole group. In a collectivist society there is usually a strong community. People in the community take responsibility for one another. A collectivistic outlook often means that you include more people as part of your family. The extended family and group are also counted as family.

Different social systems

Different social systems lead to people having different outlooks. Sweden is, in many ways, an individualistic society. What you do mainly affects yourself and not your family or extended family.

In Sweden, the State has to take responsibility for guaranteeing people's security. This means that people are not dependent on their relatives protection in order to live a secure life. In societies where the state does not take responsibility for its citizens, people rely more on their relatives for security.

If someone commits a crime in Sweden, only the person who committed the crime is punished, not the person's family or extended family.