Family Constitutions and the (New) Constitution of the Family

50 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2006

See all articles by Linda C. McClain

Linda C. McClain

Boston University - School of Law


This article looks at a topic that has received little attention in the legal literature: constitution making by families. Of what interest is it to constitutional law and family law, and to those interested in the state of the family, that families undertake to draft - and are urged by assorted experts on the family to draft - family constitutions (by analogy to the U.S. constitution) and family mission statements (by analogy to corporate mission statements)? This article contends that this reported trend is a fruitful topic of inquiry, since it bears on important questions about the dynamics of family life and family governance, as well as on how families (as associations) fit within the constitutional order. One reported impetus for families drafting such documents is a perception that an important relationship between families and other institutions of civil society and government is askew: families must define their own ends and values because these other institutions are no longer serving as generators or supporters of these values. The article examines Stephen Covey's influential book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families," as well as literature about various types of families drafting such documents (e.g., families struggling with work/family conflict, parents concerned about moral education, nontraditional families, religious families, wealthy families, and family businesses). It identifies several common arguments about why families should draft such documents. It suggests some tensions in the literature about the process of family self-constitution, which relate to two contrasting models of family - the natural and the constructivist family, and to contrasting models of family self-government - hierarchical and democratic.

Keywords: mission statements, family constitutions, constitution-making, family life, work/family conflict, religion, family business

Suggested Citation

McClain, Linda C., Family Constitutions and the (New) Constitution of the Family. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 73, p. 833, 2006; Hofstra University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-34. Available at SSRN:

Linda C. McClain (Contact Author)

Boston University - School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

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