There are five institutional characteristics: sovereignty, hierarchy (authority), law, sanctions, and succession. Family government can be described in these terms.
The first characteristic is sovereignty. Parents have authority over their children (at least, they should). God is the One who granted sovereignty to families. In Proverbs 22:6, the Bible says to ‘Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (ESV). In Ephesians 6:1, It says ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ (ESV).
The second characteristic is hierarchy. In a family, certain people are above others. Normally, the order goes from the youngest having the least power and the eldest having the most. Parents are above all the children; the elder children are above the younger children.
The third characteristic is law. There are rules in a family. One of the most fundamental laws is that the children should obey their parents. In extension, if the parents make any other specific rules, the children should obey those, also.
The fourth characteristic is sanctions. Families have the authority to punish or reward the people within. Normally, positive sanctions are given when a rule is obeyed, and negative sanctions are given when a rule is disobeyed.
The fifth and final characteristic is succession. When children become old enough, they move out and become their own and their children’s authority. If both a child’s parents die, usually in the parents’ will there will be a list of people for the child to go to.
These five characteristics show that family is a legitimate form of government.