[Answered] Discuss the changing nature of families in India. What are the main reasons behind it?

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Change in Indian family system. Factors responsible for it. Conclusion. Way forward.

Indian Society was defined by its joint family system unique all over the world. In modern day this is replaced by nuclear family system leading to more individualism. Many factors like urbanisation, education etc has caused more nuclearisation and change in Indian family system.

Changing nature of indian family system:

  1. The changing household- As the nuclear family system has gained traction, the percentage of ‘couple only’ families has increased. The percentage of single mothers too has increased, corresponding to increasing rates of divorce in the country. Extended families (one or more parents or relatives) are also common. There are more single-mother households (5.4%) than single-father households.
  2. Decision Making- In traditional family, wife had no voice in family decision-making. But in contemporary family, in budgeting the family expenditure, in disciplining the children, in purchasing goods and giving gifts, the wife now credits herself as equal in power role. Though husband continues to play the instrumental role and wife the expressive role, yet both often talk things over and consult each other in the process of arriving at a decision. This also does not mean that husband-dominant family is changing into wife-dominant or equalitarian family.
  3. Equal work participation- A rise in middle-class families is seen with many being uplifted from poverty, both husband and wife take active part in work. Women being more economically, legally and educationally empowered is no more restricted to kitchen or family management.
  4. Change in authority- In traditional family, while power and authority was totally vested in the grandfather and he was virtually all powerful who decided everything about education, occupation, marriage and the career of children in the family. In contemporary family not only in nuclear but also in joint family the grandfather has lost his authority. The authority has shifted from patriarch to parents who consult their children on all important issues before taking any decisions about them.
  5. Less abuse and Increased freedom of children- Children have also started discussing their problems with parents. They even oppose their parents. Children today enjoy more freedom. Some legislative measures have also given powers to children to demand their rights. Perhaps, it is because of all this that parents do not use old methods of punishing their children.

Factors responsible for change in Indian family structure:

  1. Industrialisation: With the advent of the British in India a process of industrialisation started which brought about far-reaching changes in the Indian social and economic life. Industrialisation resulted in the migration of rural population to the urban areas for jobs and a better standard of living breaking their relationships with the joint family. Thus, modern industries shattered the very foundation of joint family system in India.  The geographical mobility of some of the members of joint family has affected the traditional structure of the joint family as well as the relations among the members. Jobs in the factory have freed young men from direct dependence upon their families and from the control of the heads of the households.
  2. Urbanisation: Along with the process of industrialisation, the process of urbanisation has resulted in the weakening of the joint family system in India. Urban population has grown at a faster rate in our country in last few decades. The result of urbanisation has been the establishment of nuclear families because urban-dwellers choose the nuclear families. Urbanisation has emphasised individuality and privacy which encourage the establishment of independent family units. In addition, the women who have got gainful jobs seek more freedom in many aspects. Therefore, they try to restrict the kinship ties.
  3. Education: Education has affected joint family system in many ways. It has brought about changes in attitudes, beliefs, values and ideologies of the people. These changes are visible among both males and females who are educated. Education has also created individualistic attitudes among the educated persons. Hence, education has worked against the maintenance of the joint family system.
  4. Enlightenment of Women: The educated Indian women are impressed by the modern family life. They have become conscious of their rights and equality with men. They have started making use of educational and employment opportunities. Education and jobs for women have brought about tremendous changes in their status. At present they earn their own living. This gives them a sense of independence. The effect of jobs for women has been towards equality. Thus, the rises in the status of women and their economic independence have adversely affected the joint family system.
  5. The Impact of Western Culture: The impact of Western culture can be seen in many ways. It resulted in the
    • spread of ideals of liberty and equality.
    • Spread of individualism.
    • Materialistic behaviour.

As a combined result of this Western influence, the old and traditional Hindu values underwent tremendous changes and the very nature of joint living was affected.

6. Change in Marriage System: Change in age of marriage, freedom in mate selection and change in attitude of individuals towards marriage have also affected joint family system. The choice of the marriage partners is less and less determined by the head of the family. People are less subject to parental control and other forms of social pressure regarding whom and when they shall marry. The older external and one-sided control is replaced by choice of mate. This has weakened the patriarchal control over the family.

7. Social Legislations: The joint family system has received a great setback from several legislations. These Acts have not only modified the inter-personal relations and the composition of family but also the stability of joint family. The Hindu succession Act, 1956 has brought about fundamental changes in the Hindu joint family structure by conferring equal rights on women in inheritance. Special Marriage Act, 1954 has permitted the freedom of mate selection and marriage in any caste and religion without the parent’s consent. This has affected the marriage system to a large extent.

8. Decline in Agriculture and Village Industries: The joint family system emerged as a product of agrarian society. The villagers depended on agriculture as well as agro-based collage industries. But the commodities produced by the village artisans and craftsmen could not stand the competition brought about by the price and quality of goods produced in the factories. Also over-population has caused excessive pressure on the agricultural and residential land. The agriculture no longer provides employment to the ever- increasing number of people depending on it. The poor and the unemployed desert their homes in search of employment elsewhere moving away from their families.

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