What is a family?

What do you guys think is a family? Listening to the radio this morning, some politicians seemed to believe that a family is only a man, a woman and children under 18, preferably the parents are married.

What about gay parents? Or couples who choose not to have children (I fall into this one btw), or single parents. Or a group of friends who all live together and have no one else. All these things (and more I'm sure) count as families in my view.

They were debating the current policy proposals concerning income tax and families (with the aim of encouraging marriage). One of the points raised was that by encouraging marriage with monetary reward (and only where there's kids, but they didn't focus on that bit!) they made single parents feel like second class citizens, not worthy of support.

What about all the other family situations? Do they not think it can make those feel 'second class' and unworthy of support?

I feel in my childless state that this is the case. I've chosen not to have kids as it's not for me, and I feel penalised for it in certain ways, as we don't seem to count in society at times. I also have had pressure put on me in my workplace not to have kids which I thought was unfair too, and told that employers don't like to hire women of reproductive age over men in case they do go off and have kids and what not, which is totally wrong.

What do you guys think?
I try to steer clear of politics as it actually drives me mental. I don't know why they encourage marriage, in an age where it seems to mean less in my eyes, than it did even 15-20 odd years ago.

It seems to be the norm, get married and have children, live happily ever after. You may as well be a machine, because individuality is laughed upon. If you don't fit into the pigeon hole category of the ideal person, then you are punished.

It's actually shocking and I think, sexist, to encourage someone not to have children for the sake of business. But then, I've never got my head around the whole businessman/greed thing, I've always believed you should be happy instead of rich, but because of the rich, you often become unhappy as a result of their greed. That might be the nature of business, but it's ugly.

As for what I'd class as family, I think in modern times, it has such a diverse meaning, that you can't just say, it's a man, a woman and their kids. I personally would favour telling my closer friends more intimate details about certain things than I would my parents.
It doesn't seem logical to force people to create a "family" as a means of financial benefits, it's ludicrous. I've always joked about it, but if I was a woman, I'd quit my job, find some old div and defy the laws of nature by having a kid each week, it's terrible really to think that this is almost rewarded in our society. If it is a genuine setup, then fair play, otherwise it's just a laughable loophole.
In this day and age I think its hard to class what you would call a family. At the age of 25 I am the only one out of my group of friends whos parents are still together.