Nuclear Family

Mom, Dad, 2-3 kids, dog, house in the suburbs. Cat optional.

Basis for most Dom Com series. The name references that this is the minimal "core" family unit, a single generation of parents and kids, as opposed to an "extended" family with cohabiting aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. Or the fact that it is usually unstable, can cause hair loss, has a fifty-fifty chance of a spontaneous split, and may also lead to early death; either works. Generally avoided in dramas, as missing parents are a good source of teen angst.

Has nothing to do with people affected by radiation or a certain ending in Fallout 4.

Compare and contrast The Clan, A Boy, a Girl, and a Baby Family, Big, Screwed-Up Family.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the DCU comic Batman and the Outsiders (first run), there was a group of robot super-villain terrorists called the Nuclear Family. They were based on an idealized 1950's sitcom family and had radiation-based powers. They were eventually blown up.
    • They then got rebuilt for the much-maligned Battle For Bludhaven.
      • Said Nuclear Family later reappeared in Justice League Action, much less maligned than said Bludhaven bout.
  • The Far Side has a strip where the kids are watching TV while the parents are welcoming guests, telling them to come in and meet their 1.5 children.

    Fairy Tales 

  • Disneyland Dream is a 1956 home movie by amateur filmmaker Robbins Barstow, documenting his family's trip from their hometown in Connecticut to the then-new Disneyland theme park. It is, among other things, a perfect record of the stereotypical all-American nuclear family with the mom, dad, and kids, in this case three.
  • In the 1997 informative video The Kids Guide to the Internet The Jamisons, as established in the Establishing Shot of their home. Mom and Dad, Peter and Dasha. They make it abundantly clear that Mom likes to pay bills and how the kids grades have improved, and Dad likes to check the stocks and sports scores. On top of that they all helped set up the computer, each having their own job. Any sweeter and Lisa and Andrew would have died of diabetes upon entering the house.
  • In Suffragette despite the film taking place in an age where the nuclear family wasn't that common, Maud's family consists of herself, her husband and her son. Having lost her mother at a young age, Maud never had siblings, and the fact that she never knew who her father was further serves to reduce the family size. Her husband's family is never mentioned, but it's implied he has no female relatives who can cook for him while Maud is away. Considering that they're not that well off, it can be assumed his parents died early, too.

  • Invoked by the Community in The Giver. All families are intentionally set up like this, although minus the dog, as pets don't exist in the Community.
  • In The Phantom Tollbooth, the main character visits Digitopolis, the land of numbers, and tries to find a way to Infinity. After giving up, he encounters half a boy, cut right down the middle (the other half just not there). Turns out he's the .58 child in 2.58 children for the average family — luckily the average went up a bit, because it was painful being only .47. Fortunately, the average family also has 1.3 automobiles, and since he's the only one who can drive three-tenths of a car, he gets to use it all the time.
  • ''Project NRI": Yamagi Noriko's family is composed of her mother, her father, herself and her little brother Haseo.

    Live Action TV 

  • The "Loving Family" My Little Pony toys consisted of a mare, a stallion, a filly, and a colt.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons. Early on, it even used "America's Most Nuclear Family" as a Tag Line.
  • South Park: all of the kids except for Cartman follow this trope to the T.
  • Family Guy
  • The evil supervillain "Brainchild" (a.k.a Charles) from The Tick's animated series is the older son in a nuclear family. His parents are very progressive and hope he'll eventually grow out of the "supervillain" phase.
  • The Morgendorrfers in Daria are a parody, although they do genuinely seem to care for each other. Even if the mother is a hopeless Workaholic, the father a Cloud Cuckoolander, the eldest daughter a misanthopic Snark Knight, and the youngest a boy-crazy, popularity-obsessed Pretty Freeloader.


If you want to break out of the 2-or-3-kids pattern, you could try going much, much larger. This can be justified via religious beliefs note , but it doesn't have to be. However, if the big family is not the main family for the story, it's almost certainly a religious reason — and almost certainly, most or all of the kids are treated as a unit, not as individuals. They may even dress and look identical except for age and gender.


  • In A Brother's Price a nuclear family is made of a group of sisters, their husband, and their children. Thirty children are not uncommon, but considered irresponsible if there's only one boy. Overlaps with The Clan, as the children are technically half sisters, half cousins - but as far as the protagonists are concerned, they're sisters.
  • Cheaper by the Dozen (the book, movie version, and modern remake) has 12. In the original movie there's a scene where a representative from Planned Parenthood arrives to ask the mother (who's apparently well known as having her household in order) to head the local chapter... and upon meeting the kids at first thinks it's a boarding school and then gasps in horror, "Why — they're all yours!"
  • Teresa Bloomingdale's comedy novel I Should Have Seen It Coming When the Rabbit Died is an autobiography about a strongly Catholic family with some 10 kids.
  • The Weasleys from Harry Potter. Six boys and one girl.
  • The Carsons in Zilpha Keatley Snyder's The Changeling are like this. Outside of Ivy and Josie, the only one of the eight kids who appears or does anything is Jerry. They're described as all looking pretty much alike.

    Live Action TV 
  • The main family in Just the Ten of Us, spinoff from Growing Pains. As Bo-- er, Richard Stabone noted upon seeing the Lubbock family, "They're Catholic!"
  • Ma and Pa Kettle, stars of a popular franchise of late '40s/early '50s comedies, were a rural farm couple with 15 children. A running gag would have Ma forgetting a kid's name.
  • On the Reality Show 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggar family has 19 kids. There also is a Spin-Off about their friends the Bates, who have 21 kids.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Weekenders, Lor is the sole girl in a family with 12 boys, all of whom are treated as a unit. Her family environment has formed much of the core of her personality.
  • Taken to perhaps its ultimate extreme with Cletus Spuckler, The Simpsons' resident "slack jawed yokel". He and his wife Brandine are the parents of some 44 children. In one episode, the Spucklers take in Bart and Lisa when Homer and Marge go to jail, implying that some of the other children may be fostered as well.

You may also choose to have a gaggle-o'-kids by using a blended family. The parents' exes are even more optional than the cat.

    Fan Fiction 

    Live Action TV 

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb, where the family is so blended it can be hard for a casual viewer to notice it at all. This is helped by Ferb, who has a British accent, hardly ever speaking.
  • Rugrats began with Chuckie being raised by a single father, but in the second movie Chas remarries a woman named Kira who has a daughter named Kimi.

Then again, you could go for moderation:

  • All-of-a-Kind Family details a depression-era Jewish family with 5 girls spaced two years apart, and, by the end of the first book, a new baby brother.

    Live Action TV 
  • Malcolm in the Middle has a core group of three boys, plus older brother Francis (away at military camp, and later starting his own family) and baby brother Jamie.

Or you could stick by the nuclear family, but have the extended family get way more involved than is typical. Instead of a grandparent or two and the occasional uncle or unruly cousin, try adding two to three siblings on each side and two to three kids per sibling (with the childless sibling constantly asked when he or she is going to start a family). Pretty soon you have the kind of setup needed for My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

    Anime and Manga 
  • Summer Wars features the exploits of an extended family (and one love interest) over the course of a few days trying to stop a viral social networking disaster from causing IRL mayhem.

  • In PS238, The Nuclear Family is a superhero team which is also an extended family. Despite their "Nuclear" moniker their power set varies from Gadgeteer Genius to at least one Flying Brick. Student Susie Fusion is the child of one of its members, and Julie Fincher ("84") is the daughter of a non-superpowered offshoot, who doesn't get along well with his superpowered cousins.

  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe uses the extended family trope quite a bit. In NJO, you might even think Luke and Mara were the Solo kids' parents.

    Real Life 
  • The Western nuclear family is a relatively recent innovation, the product of social and physical mobility brought about by the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.
  • In more traditional societies, like some in Latin America, the Mediterranean, and South/Southeast Asia, this is ubiquitous. Extended family are almost universally considered close family in those cultures. In many of these areas, extended family either lives under one roof or near one another. The Arab Gulf states, for example, are notorious for having cases of three or four generations living under one roof, with all of a particular patriarch's (very fertile) descendants living in a single building. In profound cases (e.g., Italy), "family" might include True Companions, or casual acquaintances.
    • Weddings are an issue in these cultures. The minimum size for an Indian or Middle Eastern wedding is somewhere in the triple digits; anything smaller and you will run the risk of offending many people. If you live far away from most of your relatives, they will insist that it be held close to them. This goes double if you live abroad—they will have you get married in The Old Country, and that is final.