Family Structure in India

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Niranjan, S.; Sureender, S. and Rao, G. Rama. : Family Structure in India Evidence from NFHS. Demography India. 27(2). 1998. P. 287-300. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Family Structure in India - Evidence from NFHS S. Niranjan, S. Sureenderand G. Rama Rao Introduction With the increase in the urbanization and industrialization, the concept of family in India, which once was to create and maintain a common culture among the members of the family, is undergoing changes. However according to Beteille (1964), inspite of socio-economic and political changes, family life and family structure have remained as an integral part of Indian society with the 'spirit of family solidarity' as the sustaining power. Ross (1961) found that many Indians went through changes in the type of family in which they lived in various sequences: large joint family, small joint family, nuclear family, and nuclear family with dependants. D'Souza (1971) argues that, the Indian family has been subjected to stress and strain, and inspite of resistance to change over the centuries, is slowly undergoing a process of change significantly. According to Cohen (1981) "households have reputedly been shrinking in size for ten thousand years or more, right up to the present, and this is a result of an evolving technology that requires fewer co-operating people to secure food, rear children, and look after the sick". Though it is generally felt that joint families, whose members were bound together by ties of common ancestry and common property dominate in the past, there are diverging views regarding the same. Gore (1968) says, "the fraternal or collateral joint family was never the most common form". Goode (1968) asserts that the large joint family was not common at any time in India perhaps because of the great forces of fission, initially between daughters-in-law and later between brothers. In a study of three villages located in three different districts in Karnataka state, two-thirds of the families were nuclear and the rest were different forms of joint family (Rao, Kulkarni and Rayappa, 1986). Although it can be argued that over the years joint family is slowly giving way to nuclear families, a number of studies reveal that despite the fact of living in the nuclear family set-up many functional relationships are maintained with the nonresidential family members (Agarwala, 1962; Desai, 1964; Kapadia, 1969; Gore, 1968). As still in India most of the marriages are arranged by the parents, marital life begins in the parents family and later depending on the situation, a dwelling unit is arranged by the parents or other older members of the family (Richard et

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al., 1985). Hence, it is possible that the decisions taken by the members of the nuclear family are guided by their parents and relatives. However, this to an extent depends on the different types of family structure. Generally, family types are classified conveniently in many of the studies as nuclear and joint families. In such a case, it would be rather difficult to conclude meaningfully about the significance of these family types on its family members. To be precise, family types are classified differently by various scholars. Kapadia (1969) have identified two broad family types namely; nuclear and joint/extended, while Richard et al. (1985) and Caldwell et al. (1988) have classified into nuclear, stem, joint, joint-stem and others. To understand this issue further it would be necessary to understand the changes in the family structure at the macro level i.e., India over the years, which to an extent has been attempted in this paper. Objectives The specific objectives of this paper are: (i) to understand the change in family structure at two points of time i.e., in 1981 (census) and 1992-93 (NFHS), in different states of India, (ii) to study the differentials in family structure by different socio-economic...
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