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Indian Joint Families and the Reasons for the Disintegration

A joint family has been considered as an important feature of Indian social structure since ancient times. Presently the structure of joint family is undergoing some important changes related to family responsibilities, important decisions, the mutual relations of its members and socialization of its children.

It is defined by scholars as:

“A joint family is a group of persons who normally live in one house,have common kitchen, own property jointly pray together and they must have blood relations with one another anyways ” — Irawati Karvey,

Such traditional joint families only existed in earlier times when people were illiterate and dependent on one another. In every society the economic system  is the basis of its structure and if the economy changes the related social institutions also changes. As per Botomore,” The disintegration of joint families is not only result of several conditions resulted to industrialisation, but the main reason is that the joint families failed to fulfill the requirements of economic development “.

The reasons for their disintegration are as follows:

1. Industrialisation

Industrialisation has been seen as an important factor in the disintegration of joint families. In earlier times a joint family has been a center of production and consumption. But with the setting up of large industries more people started migrating from villages to towns as land could not sustain a large population. They started living with their wife and children. Hence individualism exists between them and they began to think of their own self interest neglecting other members.

Industrialisation has also provided job opportunities to women in economic sectors. Their situation and role changed, they gained self confidence and became aware of their rights. They started revolting and protesting against the system and also contributed actively in the formation of nuclear families.

Another factor that led to the formation of nuclear families was urbanisation. On one hand New cities were developed and on the other small cities have grown up in metro cities. Young boys and girls who have got modern education and brought up in metro cities usually have a modern point of view towards life. They became more individualistic and youthful.

In a house mother-in-law wanted her daughter-in-law to follow her traditions however daughter-in-law wants to move freely with her husband. In such situation on one hand parents have some expectations from their son, on the other hand expectations of his wife and children tend to be different. There are contradictions in their expectations and the poor son finds himself in a fix that badly affects his mental health.

2. Western culture and education

Western culture and education was the next factor that facilitated the disintegration of joint families. Indians started getting an English education after the establishment of British rule in India. Their thoughts mentality and social values started getting affected by western culture. Now a days women want to live freely away from the restrictions and limits of joint family where the relationship of husband and wife is important, where they can live closely with one another and raise and educate their children as they wish.

3. Reduction of workload in joint families

In modern times, many of the works in joint families are transferred to society. Now families are not Centre of Production. Much of the work which was earlier performed by jointly in families are now performed by different groups such as clubs, associations, educational societies, etc.. Now A days we have laundry to wash clothes, tailoring houses to stitch and flour mills to grind the grains. One started feeling that he can rise in life, even after staying separated from a joint family and promote himself in a better way. As a result a person becomes less dependent,which further leads to reduction in loyalty towards his family.

4. Family disputes

Family disputes have added in the modification of joint families. Differences existed in the new point of thoughts, mentality, and ideology among members of different generations in joint family led to tensions and dispute among family members. Generally disputes are initiated by women because women in joint families, mother-in-law, and daughter in law etc. belongs to different family roots so they have different behavior.

5. Increase in number of indolent

Increase in number of indolent in the family affects the mental and physical health of earning person as the rule “one for all and all for one” was followed in joint families.

6. New social rules and Legislation

The existence of joint families has been based on the fact that no member of the family had gotten personal right over the property. But with Hindu Succession Act-1929 had provided family properties to the members who wanted to live separate from joint families.

Woman Right of Property Act-1937: With this Act the right of woman in property was accepted.

With Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act 1955, women were given equal rights to men and discrepancies of marriage was abolished. Women were freed from subjugation and being victim of social and domestic violence.

In joint families the eldest person called ‘karta’ had highest place and was ruler of family. The wish of other members was suppressed for karta’s wish. But the present situation that is seen in joint families is that the head of the family is not trusted by other members, if he does not treat equally with all members. Rising disputes and quarrel spoils the atmosphere of family and ruins the joy and happiness.

It is clear from above discussion that many economic and social powers, western values and ideology, modern education, women empowerment  brought many fundamental changes in structure of joint families.

We can see examples of joint families these days in our favorite serials in which members of many generations live together or all the brothers of one generation live together with their wives and children who own the wealth and property collectively. They have a common kitchen and collectively participate in religious ceremonies, festivals and celebrations and remain attached to one another for mutual duties and responsibilities. But, here also we can see disputes in the family due to difference of opinions in mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, son and father which puts a big question mark over

Observing the present situation we can say that it will not be possible to continue the traditional form of joint families because in such families generally females have lower place which is doubtful in the future.