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How has the definition of family evolved? Who’s in, and who’s trusted? MassMutual takes a pulse across generations

October 22nd, 2019

Surprisingly, there are more similarities than differences

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., October. 22, 2019 – How has the definition of family evolved over recent years? That’s what Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) set out to discover and asked 3,000 Americans via an online survey conducted by PSB Research in June.

What the 168-year old mutual life insurance company found was a bit surprising. There were more similarities than differences no matter how you sliced the data.

Regardless of age, parental status, ethnicity, race, gender identity, orientation or sibling status:

  • All you need is love. Overwhelmingly across the board, love is the top word that sparks the meaning of family.
  • Friends are family you choose. A majority (71%) include close friends in their personal definition of family, followed by pets (said 55%). However, ironically, when it comes to older age, 69% believe a spouse, partner, significant other or child will be the primary person to care for them.
  • Tell someone you trust. From passwords to insurance policies to financial accounts, roughly half of Americans (47%) trust their spouse, partner or significant other with information about the whereabouts of their most important documents. (Thankfully, only 14% responded that no one else knows where their important documents are.)
  • Leave your mark. The majority (53%) occasionally think about their legacy or how they want to be remembered. Surprisingly, 27% never think about it.
  • Dream big. For most (59%), future hopes and dreams was the most talked about topic at home when growing up, beating out discussions about going to college, financial situation and challenges, and physical, emotional and spiritual health and wellness.
  • Got my mind on my money and my money on my mind. Money matters is the top distraction, concern or stressor Americans face while working, followed by medical care, daily household management, and personal relationships.

And of the few differences:

  • Nontraditional is the new traditional. Their most trusted individual is someone not related by blood, adoption or marriage, said 65% of Americans, except those in their 60s and 70s are more on the fence (at 49%).
  • Chosen family emerges. Lesbians, gay and bisexual individuals, only children, and those in their 20s and 30s tend to use the expression “chosen family” to describe people unrelated by blood, marriage or adoption whom they feel very close to.

“Usually when you span such a broad consumer group, you find more differences than similarities,” said Lorie Valle-Yanez, head of diversity and inclusion, MassMutual. “But when it comes to the topic of one’s family, while everyone is different, at the root of it, it’s about the people we love.”

So why did MassMutual conduct this research, and why now?

At the start of this year, MassMutual expanded its suite of employee benefits and broke the traditional mold when it comes to the definition of family with the company’s new caregiver and bereavement leaves. The new caregiver leave provides employees with up to two weeks paid leave to care for a loved one who is suffering from a serious health condition. The new bereavement leave provides up to 15 days of paid time off to grieve the loss of a loved one.

With both, it is at the discretion of the employee to define who a loved one is. There is no requirement that the person is an immediate or extended family member.

“When we were looking at expanding our suite of benefits and leaves, our goal was to do the right thing for our employees, providing options that are flexible and adaptable for everyone,” said Sue Cicco, head of human resources and employee experience, MassMutual. “Our purpose is to help people secure their future and protect the ones they love, and that begins at home with our employees.”

“Our research on the evolving definition of family validates the path that we are on – a path that we believe is less traveled in corporate America, and one that we truly believe is the right path for companies to be on,” added Cicco.

About MassMutual
MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit