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An expanded family is a group of people who have deliberately chosen to regard its members as family. The term is a variation of the familiar phrase extended family, which describes a group of people who become family as a result of birth of marriage. It is most commonly used within the polyamorous community.
An expanded family is also sometimes called an intentional family.
The term expanded family typically describes a group containing at least three adults. There is no upper limit on the size of an expanded family. So long as all people within the group have consciously chosen to identify as a member, then even a very large group can be regarded as an expanded family.
An expanded family is typically made up of adults that are sexually involved with one another and their partners’ partners, often known as metamours. While metamours are not usually sexually involved, they often have intimate connections. In addition, an expanded family often contains the offspring of the adults within the group.
Through an expanded family, polyamorous individuals and their children can find connections within people who share their experiences. Expanded families can be a valuable source of support, especially for individuals dealing with prejudice from monogamous people.
Some advocates suggest the bonds developed in an expanded family may even be stronger than those cultivated within a nuclear family, as they are entered into by choice. In a society plagued by divorce, some people believe expanded families will become more accepted in time.