Family Ties

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Family Ties TV Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Classic 1980s sitcom's messages still ring true today.

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 11 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The importance of family and respecting other people’s points of view are underscored here.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Keatons are a loving, happy, generally communicative family who share in household tasks and other responsibilities. Disagreements are frequent, but despite some sibling spats and the humorous mild name-calling and sarcastic put-downs, they try to respect each other’s views and demonstrate self-control.


Some kissing between a husband and wife as well as teen couples. Some storylines touch on sexual topics like teen pregnancy and extramarital affairs. Mallory is obsessed with being popular and having a boyfriend, so she often talks about guys being cute.


Very rare use of words like “hell” and “damn.”

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some storylines center on issues like underage drinking, alcoholism, and drug abuse, but the messages are always positive and honest.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Family Ties is a classic '80s sitcom centering on a strong family headed by loving parents who happily share domestic duties. Much of the show's humor stems from the personality differences among the family members, but despite many disagreements, the parents support their kids and encourage them to express their views. Some episodes touch on serious issues like teen pregnancy, grief, extramarital affairs, and crime, but they're all addressed in an honest, thoughtful manner.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 10-year-old Written bymom2girls2 January 2, 2013

Too much sex talk for a young child or tween

Quite a few episodes with way too much emphasis put on sex for a young child or tween. In my opinion this series is better suited for the 15 & up crowd... Continue reading
Adult Written byLittleABC October 11, 2020
Teen, 14 years old Written byadventureicallingCO January 22, 2021

I watched all seasons in just one month!

I have to admit, there is a little talk about older age content, but it does not show anything inappropriate at all. But do expect teens kissing and talk about... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byTealJacket July 10, 2019

Season 1 episode 4 Summer of 82’

I didn’t really enjoy it myself. First, it wasn’t very entertaining, and second, it was all about Alex being seduced and “in love”. I’m glad I didn’t watch it w... Continue reading

What's the story?

Former hippies/leftwing activists from the '60s, Steven (Michael Gross) and Elyse Keaton (Meredith Baxter-Birney) now face the uncertainty of raising a family in the '80s in FAMILY TIES. Parenthood has pitfalls enough, but toss in the added challenge of meshing diverse philosophies between generations, and it's clear why there's never a dull moment in the Keaton household. Steven and Elyse may not always see eye to eye with their brood -- ultra-conservative Alex (Michael J. Fox), popularity queen Mallory (Justine Bateman), and free spirit Jennifer (Tina Yothers) -- but they always respect their ideals and give them support and guidance to find their way in life. (In later episodes, the Keatons welcomed another son, Andy, played by Brian Bonsall.)

Is it any good?

This iconic series set trends of its own, finding heartfelt entertainment in the ups and downs of one of TV's most believable TV families. During its seven-year run in the '80s, Family Ties did a lot more than just making it cool to don a calculator watch and tie like Alex. The Keatons were symbols of a new kind of American household, where both parents were successful professionals and shared domestic duties. Despite the Keatons' vastly different views -- which often led to some heated discussions -- the result was a heartwarming family atmosphere where everyone had a voice and loved ones always pulled together in the end.

In addition to common teen woes like dating and applying to college, the series also tackled serious topics like racial tension, alcoholism, drug addiction, and teen pregnancy, so some of the content may be on the mature side for young kids. But through every trial, Steven and Elyse remained positive role models who offered messages of tolerance, respect, and self-awareness -- making this series still an excellent choice for families. If you can look past the shoulder pads and big hair, you'll find timeless stories and positive lessons that resonate today with the same force as they did in the '80s.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Family Ties' messages about family life. Are the Keatons a realistic family? How do the issues they face compare to your family’s? How does this series compare to others you’ve seen that center on families?

  • How does the fact that this series is many years old affect how you view it? Are the show’s messages still relevant?

  • How do the characters on Family Ties demonstrate communication and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love family sitcoms

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate