Family of Choice

Mr. Maclay: This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin! Who the hell are you?
Buffy: We're family.
Buffythe Vampire Slayer, Season 5, Episode 6: Family

Often in fiction, a character who starts out Conveniently an Orphan will pick up extremely loyal companions along the way. Sometimes these relationships are forged through the fire of conflict, but with Families of Choice, it's a bit different. Members of a Chosen Family mourn the lack of family in their lives and decide to build one of their own out of people they care for and who care for them in turn.

As in Real Life, this is most common when something has happened to these characters to isolate them from blood relatives - perhaps they were thrown out of their home for being gay, or maybe they have a supernatural secret they can’t share with their parents. They might have survived all their family members or they could just have a bad home life in general. To fill the vacant roles in their lives, some characters build their own families with people they choose to care about.

Some common examples of Family of Choice include an adult meeting the future heroes as children and deciding to be the Parental Substitute that they need, children who grow up together without family of their own and claim each other as Brother and Sister, or an adult friend of a single parent that takes it upon himself to always be there for the main characters and thus becomes an Honorary Uncle. Adopted and blended families, however, are not examples of this trope because they do have legal status as family.

Examples of this trope must describe not just the nature of the relationship but how, when, or why the characters came to feel this way about each other. Remember, if they came to think of each other as True Companions because the plot has brought them closer together, its more likely to be Fire-Forged Friends, Band of Brothers or just True Companions than this trope.

Subtrope of True Companions. Compare/Contrast with No Blood Ties and Thicker Than Water. Hint: If an example includes the words "in the end" then it's more likely Fire-Forged Friends than this trope (which is about characters forming a family in the beginning, before all that plot stuff happens).


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Despite many of them not being human, and sometimes going years without seeing each other, the heroes of Dragon Ball and its sequels are as close as any family.
  • Naruto: Naruto, whose entire family is dead, has formed close bonds with his 'Grandfather' the third hokage, his 'older brother' Iruka, his 'other brother' Sasuke and his 'father' Kakashi. That said, the entire Leaf Village seems to regard itself as one giant extended family anyway, and their "Will of Fire" philosophy strongly emphasis this.
  • The Yagami family in the Lyrical Nanoha franchise are a borderline example, since the Knights are dependent on Hayate Yagami's mana output. The Huckebein and Grendel families in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force are more obvious, since both are groups of unrelated Eclipse infectees who banded together around Curren Huckebein and Kurt Grendel's leadership, respectively.
  • The Members of the Zodiac (plus Tohru) in Fruits Basket. Most of them come from broken homes (at best), and due to their condition, it's a lot easier to forge bonds with each other, anyway. Tohru leaves her remaining family to stay with the Sohmas, and consequently becomes the glue that holds them together.
  • In Baccano!, Firo, Ennis and Czeslaw - three immortals who've faced a pretty rough life - eventually settle into this arrangement, right down to sharing the same apartment.
  • In Toradora!, Ryuuji and his mother Yasuko become Taiga's family, and she eats dinner with them every day. When Taiga's father, who abandoned her, comes back into her life, Yasuko doesn't trust him and doesn't want Taiga to leave as she is a part of their family.
  • In One Piece, we have the Whitebeard Pirates. The captain looks upon each of the members as his sons, and all of them in turn looks to him as his father. It's explicitly stated that many of the members are vagabonds and strays who were brought together by Whitebeard's kindness, and all consider each other family. As his life flashes right before his eyes, a dying Whitebeard expresses that this is all he ever really wanted.
    • This is arguably one of the most dominant themes of the series. Oda confirmed this, stating that one of the major themes of One Piece is that heredity doesn't matter and family is who you choose. Several members of the Straw Hats were not raised by blood relatives and had surrogate families, and this along with Sins of Our Fathers is one of the overarching themes of the Marineford Arc.
  • Despite Yuu's protests, the orphans at the Hyakuya Orphanage in Seraph of the End feel this way about the group, due to poor relationships with their blood family. Eventually, Yuu comes to accept this as well. And then they're all slaughtered.

    Comic Books 
  • The Holo Brothers are three humanoid aliens of three different species. They were all orphaned too young to remember their real family, and grew up together in an orphanage. They refer to each other as brothers and act in every way as if they actually were.
  • This is explicitly the relationship between Cutter and Skywise in the ElfQuest stories. They become "brothers in all but blood" when young,even going as far as to share "soul names", something normally reserved for immediate family or reproductive mates. Their relationship is somewhat strained during The Palace War and when Skywise wants to stay in the Palace after, but is never broken while they both live.
  • Teen Titans: This is how the Titans are described as seeing each other in the comic books. They support each other in all the good ways of a family, but they're also a family in all the worst ways with all the conflicts, you'd usually suspect from living together like one. They do have some disagreements, but it always leads into more character depth.
    • This is adapted very well in the Teen Titans animated series where their family-like relationships are used to look deeper into each of the character's backstories and character flaws.
  • The Runaways act very much like a family, which should not be surprising given that most of them have known each other since they were little kids.
  • In Death Vigil, when Allistor turns on the Vigil because he can relate to and understand the reasoning behind Wulf's Face-Heel Turn, he demands Mia leave with him. Mia, in outrage, refuses and tells him she's staying with her family, and chooses to stand with the Vigil over her father.

    Fan Works 
  • In this series of Emergency! fics, John Gage lost his parents as a young boy. The relatives who raised him badly abused him. His aunt is the only blood family he's close to. But his work partner, Roy, and Roy's wife Joanne become the people he thinks of as his family, even if he has a hard time just understanding and accepting love. The relationship often easily shifts between brothers or brother/sister and parents/child. Joanne often mothers him like her third child, and even Roy's son recognizes that when someone tries to hurt John, Roy gets like a Papa Bear. John's aunt also comes to see how the Desotos have become her nephew's surrogate family and helped him in ways she never succeeded in.

  • In the film Leave It On The Floor a group of gay young men form a replacement family around the head Drag Queen (whom they call Mama and who refers to them as her children) of their drag competition team.
  • The Hawaiian term for this is "'ohana"', as anyone who has seen the movie Lilo & Stitch, with its "family" composed of two sisters, a reformed all destroying monster, the (mostly) reformed creator of said monster and an incompetent bureaucrat knows:
    "'Ohana means family and family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten."
  • The Blues Brothers met each other while they were both in an orphanage, and used a string from Elmore James' guitar to become Blood Brothers.
  • In The Wolverine, at the end of the movie, Mariko adopts Yukio as her sister, "her only family," as the rest of the Yashida family have been killed off.
  • The Penguins of Madagascar. A brief flashback even shows a page from Private's journal, with a crayon drawing of the four of them labeled "FAMILY"
  • In Ice Age this is what happened to the misfit stragglers - Manny/Diego/Sid - in the first movie. Over the course of the original film, they gradually form tight-knit bonds and begin to think of each other as a "herd".
  • Pride has this working several ways: the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners group serve as a surrogate family for each other, as most of them, being gay in 1984 Thatcherite Britain have bad relationships (Steph) no relationship (Gethin) or are closeted (Joe) from their blood relatives. In particular, Joe and Steph develop a close brother/sisterly relationship over the course of the film. Additionally, the members of the Miner's Union in the Welsh town of Onllwyn who the LGSM sponsor during the mine strike find themselves (after some initial culture shock) to be taking on a parental role towards the LGSM. This leads in part to the Welsh Gethin being able to work up the courage to reconnect with his own actual mother. There's also Cliff and Hefina, who are not related by blood or marriage at all, but who have been obviously close for twenty years at least. Hefina, for example, apparently has known that Cliff was gay since 1968.

  • The four protagonists of Circle of Magic are rescued from similarly isolated backgrounds and brought to a school of magic where they immediately form a strong bond. Especially Sandry and Daja, since Sandry, responding to an act of cruel injustice by a third girl, takes an "us against the world" approach before she even knows Daja's name. The family can also be seen to include the children's teachers, especially Lark and Rosethorn who live with the children as well as teach them. By the end of their stories, the children even refer to each other as siblings.
    • Other people often react with incredulity when they're introduced as siblings, since the four clearly come from utterly different racial and social backgrounds, but they often don't give the incredibly powerful mages too much of a fuss about it.
  • Burke of the crime novels of Andrew Vachss has no family by blood or law but has such close bonds with the people he’s chosen for his family that he would kill anyone who hurt them.
  • At the end of the first book in the Star Ka'at series, two unrelated orphan human children are adopted and referred to as "kin" by intelligent, sapient space-cats.
  • The central family in Weetzie Bat is mostly this. Weetzie spends little time with her mother, and while she loves her father he lives across the country. Dirk's parents and grandmother are dead, Duck and My Secret Agent Lover Man don't even mention their families in the first book, and the only biological or legally bound family members are Cherokee and Witch Baby. Cherokee, it's not known who her biological father is, and Witch Baby is only related to My Secret Agent Lover Man. Yet they all live together in one two bedroom house.
  • In Harry Potter the Weasley family seems to choose Harry pretty much from the moment they meet him; aside from him being Ron's best friend, it probably has to do with his Orphan's Ordeal being well-known among wizards. Mrs. Weasley sends him a homemade sweater (like she does to all her children) after only meeting him once, and from the second book on he spends a large chunk of each summer with them. In the fourth book the school is smart enough to invite them as Harry's family for the Third Task, and Mrs. Weasley outright calls Harry her son early in the fifth. (He officially joins the family sometime after the series when he marries Ginny.)
  • Haymitch, Peeta and Katniss in The Hunger Games. Katniss still has her mother and sister until the third book where her sister dies and her mother moves away and Peeta's family is still around until the end of book two but all of Haymitch's loved ones were killed by the Capitol after the second Quarter Quell. The three of them become very close and at one point in the second book Katniss flat-out calls Haymitch a family member. For Haymitch, Katniss and Peeta seem to be the children he never had. By the end of the series Katniss and Peeta are married with two small children and Haymitch presumably fills the role of grandfather, since both Katniss' and Peeta's fathers are dead.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves has a prime example of this trope. The main characters are a group of gay men, most of them shunned by their families because of their sexuality, and they refer to their close-knit group as "the family".
  • In Pact, Blake Thorburn ran away from his family at the age of seventeen, as they tore one another to metaphorical pieces over an inheritance worth millions, ending up homeless and along until he met his friends Alexis and Joel, who he considers to be better family than his blood family ever were, since they lifted him out of the hole he was in and helped him to an extent that he credits them with saving his life. That said, his inability to detach from his real family leads to him inheriting his grandmother's house, and her various supernatural enemies, as he felt the need to go to her will-reading as closure.
  • Dashti and Saren in Book of a Thousand Days are this by the end, despite Saren's status as Gentry and Dashti's place as her maid. After leaving the Tower, they claim to be clan sisters and commoners for Saren's protection, and are the only family either has. In the end of the book, Saren legally declares Dashti her sister, as is her right as the last Lady of Titor's Garden. This is partly so Dashti won't be excecuted for claiming nobility
  • in Books Of Bayern, Ani/Isi has this with the other workers. She was never close to her birth family, as her mother kept her apart from her siblings. When Ani/Isi tells stories about the love of mothers, she says that she imagines the mothers of the workers instead of her own.

    Live Action TV 
  • On Full House, three girls are raised by their father, their maternal uncle Jesse and their father's best friend Joey. The three men (and later, Jesse's wife and kids) all live in the house together. At first, it was practical, to help raise the girls, but the arrangement continued long after the girls had grown beyond needing that level of care because the bonds of family were so strong.
  • Supernatural: Brothers Dean and Sam had a rough start to life, with their father raising them on the road after their mother was killed by a demon. Their father's obsession with the demon led him to make often unrealistic demands of the boys, but family friend Bobby did his best to let them be kids whenever Sam and Dean stayed with him. The brothers consider Bobby family and he tells Dean (in the Season 3 finale): "Family don't end with blood, boy." In the season seven episode "Death's Door", he says:
    Bobby: I adopted two boys, and they grew up great. They grew up heroes.
  • Friends was described by one critic as a show about a bunch of young adults finding a replacement family for their own, dysfunctional ones. Lampshaded by a Guy of the Week of Phoebe's whose minor flaw was his incessant psychoanalysis of the group. There are times where actions usually performed by a family member are taken over by the gang: Chandler walks Phoebe down the aisle, Joey officiates at her and Monica and Chandler's wedding, they all attend Rachel and Phoebe giving birth, everyone comes to Ross and Monica's grandmother's funeral and they spend Thanksgiving together.
    • Makes complete sense when you look at their backgrounds: Phoebe parents basically abandoned her, Rachel's father cut her off, Joey's family disapprove of his acting career, Chandler's mom either ignores or humiliates him and Monica is hurt by her parents favouritism of Ross. No wonder they found support in each other.
    • This even upgrades to legal family when Monica and Chandler get married, making Ross and Chandler Best Friends In Law, and Monica and Chandler later become aunt and uncle to Ross and Rachel's daughter.
      • The cast of Friends could be considered as a Real Life version, too.
    Courteney Cox: "They're like my family."
  • The main crew of Pushing Daisies: Olive and Chuck are like sisters, and when Chuck comments on Ned needing to reconnect with his family, he says that Chuck and Olive are his family. Emerson is a lot more reluctant to express affection for the others, but it's there.
  • Spaced; "They say the family of the 21st century is made up of friends, not relatives." Said to try to convince Marsha that she's the favourite auntie to brothers Tim and Mike, sister Daisy, and... weird cousin Brian.
  • The Space Cases episode "It's My Birthday, Too (Yeah!)" has this as the theme. The cadets have to make family trees, but Radu is stymied by the fact that Andromedans were born in group hatcheries with no family ties while enslaved by the Spung. He first tries making up a pretend family, but when that gets exposed, he eventually decides that the cadets and teachers have become as good as family, with a little help from Thelma.
    Thelma: Why were you upset at your party?
    Radu: Because I lied and they all knew I lied. That's why. I just wanted to have a family. Even a pretend one was too much to ask for. You couldn't understand.
    Thelma: I couldn't? My understanding has always been that a family is not only those from whom you are born, but those to whom you belong. [beat] Did I screw up, too?
    Radu: No... no, not at all.
  • Dawson's Creek: Jack is taken in by Jen's grandmother when he needs a place to live, even though she barely knows him. She and Jen treat him like family for the rest of the series.
  • In Battlestar Galactica, Bill Adama mentioned a couple times that he regards Kara Thrace (Starbuck) as "family" (implied above and beyond any Band of Brothers comraderie within the Fleet), and seemed to have a soft spot for her under his tough leadership exterior. It's never really mentioned why though, other than they go back a way (but so does he with a few others in the fleet), and her being responsible for his son Zak's death (by not washing him out of flight training when he was failing, due to having relations with him) makes it even more perplexing.
    • This attitude is more prevalent in the original series. Where Apollo and Starbuck treat each other like brothers so much that it's often easy to forget they aren't related by blood. And while it's not mentioned out loud, it's obvious that Adam thinks of Starbuck as another son.
  • Explicitly stated in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer when Tara's Abusive Parents try to take her home, but Buffy and her friends insist that they are Tara's family instead, as they actually care for her.
    • Giles was the closest thing any of the three main Scoobies had as teenagers, although this doesn't really become clear until later seasons, when we see just how distant all of their fathers are.
    • Also, although the Scoobies themselves were something more like Fire-Forged Friends for the first five seasons, the deaths of Joyce and then Buffy and Giles' absence knitted them together domestically as they banded up to take care of Dawn; Willow and Tara moved in to the Summers' house and made her morning pancakes, Spike became the friendly villainous babysitter, Buffy after she came back became the hard-working mother, and Xander was always there fixing the windows. Seasons 6-7 definitely portrayed them as a well-oiled family unit with a home base and designated roles.
  • Never Wipe Tears Without Gloves has a prime example of this trope. The main characters are a group of gay men, most of them shunned by their families because of their sexuality, and they refer to their close-knit group as "the family".
  • Due to her mom's drug addiction, Lindsay on Chicago PD was taken in by the Voights at age 15. Even now, as an adult, Lindsay considers Voight her surrogate dad, turning to him constantly. For this reason, Lindsay was understandably upset when the mother she hadn't spoken to in years told her that Voight is not her family. She responded by going to Voight later and telling him that she definitely thinks of him as her family.
  • On Community the Study Group eventually becomes this to each other. Like the Friends entry above, several in the group come from dysfunctional families themselves or are children of divorced parents, and as such, throughout the series the entire group forms deep, family bonds to the point that the thought of losing the group completely freaks some of them (notably Jeff or Annie) out and they attempt subterfuge in a desperate ploy to keep the group together or remain a part of it.

  • In RENT the main characters, most of whom are isolated from their families and other friends, band together in the wake of Benny's Face-Heel Turn, just to try to get by in life. All but Joanne are desperately poor, half of them are HIV-positive and the relationships between the couples are rocky at the best of times, but they support each other and won't let any of the group go through it alone. Even Joanne, an Ivy League lawyer who was only there because she was dating Maureen, gradually joined the gang and stuck around after the couple's breakup.

    Video Games 
  • In Sly Cooper, main characters Sly, Bentley, and Murray met in an orphanage and became as thick as thieves (pun intended.)

    Western Animation 
  • The Freedom Fighters of the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon are clearly a tightly-knit group of friends, all of whom have lost their actual families and so turn to each other for that kind of support; Tails even considers Princess Sally his "Aunt", and she treats him very much like her own son at times. Likewise, Sonic and Tails have a very brotherly relationship.
  • Fagan's canine posse in Oliver & Company survive aboard a derelict boat as a band of scroungers and thieves. They even extend their circle to include the kitten Oliver. When Oliver becomes stranded in the limousine, Tito insists upon a rescue: "We got to do something, man. He's family. He's blood." Since the dogs are completely different breeds and Oliver, the he in question, is a cat, Tito is clearly speaking about the strength of their bonds rather than any literal blood relationship.
  • The Young Justice episode "Home Front" finally reveals Artemis's Mysterious Past: that her parents are criminals, her mother got sent to jail and her older sister abandoned her to be raised by her abusive father as an assassin. The realization that she's found a true family in her mentor and team is what gives her the courage to risk her life saving theirs.

    Real Life 
  • The term Family of Choice (or “Chosen Family”) is well-known in the gay and lesbian community. A 2010 study by Met Life and the American Society on Aging found 64% of LGBT baby-boomers said they had a chosen family, with the term being defined as "a group of people to whom you are emotionally close and consider 'family' even though you are not biologically or legally related."