In India, the joint family system has been in existence since ancient times. The father is considered as the head of the family. His wife, sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren together constitutes a joint family. The head of the family feels proud of the great number of members. However, with the passage of time, the joint family system has disintegrated, giving rise to the nuclear family system.
The nuclear family consists of a man, his wife and their children. Job opportunities available in the cities become the main cause of the disintegration of the joint family system. People migrated to the cities in search of jobs. For a number of reasons, a joint family system could not exist in the cities. There is a lack of living space in the cities. It is difficult to accommodate all the members of a joint family in a single house in the city. To cost of living is very high in the cities. It is generally believed that mother-in-law and daughter-in-law do not get along well in a city household.
In ancient and medieval times, the older members of the family enjoyed great respect. They relaxed in the company of their counterparts. They amused themselves with the pranks of their grandchildren. They handled the financial matters of the household. But with the rise of towns and cities, the older and younger generations widened a great deal. A survey, carried out in the capital city, Delhi revealed that 40 % of the elderly people have no caretakers. They spend their old age away from the love and care of their children and grandchildren. There has been a steep rise in the crime rate against senior citizens. Old age have been set up at various places to take care of the senior citizens. In Delhi, Police departments is making a list of helpless senior citizens to make arrangements for their safety.
A nuclear family has many advantages. In a nuclear family, the mother is able to look after the needs of her children well. She can take care of their personal needs in a much better way than she could in a joint family. The family earns, spends and saves money for itself. Parents can invest money for the education of their children. They can put them in good schools and for provide them with better career opportunities. They can understand one another well. But in a joint family system, children don’t get individual attention. The womenfolk never find time to look after their children for they remain busy in the household work. Children are not educated much as they join the family occupation. The womenfolk face many restrictions disharmony occurs because of the size of the family.
A nuclear family has its disadvantages too. Due to high cost of living in the cities, both the parents pursue a career of their own. This may leave the children unguided. They find no one for advice or discussion. They spend their childhood without the much needed love and company of their parents. Infants spend their time in crèches. Overcrowded, poorly ventilated buildings and apathetic staff of the crèches have a negative influence on the well-being of the children.
With education and awareness, children and the youth today have developed liberal views. They question the age old traditions. Parents should advise them when necessary or when they move towards the wrong path. They should discuss all matters openly with their children. This would reduce the communication gap between parents and children.
The youth today crave for name, fame and wealth. In the nuclear family with working parents sometimes, the youth receives no guidance from their parents. They turn to friends for advice. Many a time, friends misguide them. They are misled. In the joint family system, the older members are likely to guide the young ones. Being old and experienced, they are able to provide solutions to their problems. The older generation should be revered. They are an asset to the society.
The media is somewhat responsible for the disintegration of the joint-family system. It often portrays the mother-in-law as a threat to the well-bring of the young bride. In some movies, she is shown to influence her son against the young bride. Many of the serials in television portray the negative aspect of elders. Newspapers also report about gruesome acts committed in some families. The foreign media has instilled western liberal views in the youth. All these factors curb the development of the family as a close knit unit, The media should try to restore the lost image of the old and the young.
The advantage of the joint family system outweigh the disadvantages. In the cycle of life, one will certainly reach old age and one will face the same problems as one’s parent or grandparents have undergone. So, old parents and grandparents should not be deprived of the love and care of the near and dear ones. But again, it is upto the younger generation to decide.