Family has three main distinguishable features. First we consider the maternal clan system. In it the natural family by which we mean husband, wife and children is not complete. The husband and wife are not united in the sense in which they become legally and morally one flesh in the higher forms of marriage.
In the second form the natural family is complete, and the husband is the head, but in this type of family, the natural family is completed at the cost of the greater subjection of the wife, who, in passing into the husband’s family, merges her personality in his, often almost like a slave. This type refers to the patriarchal type of the family.
In the third form, the completion and the union of the family is maintained by the closest moral bond, but the full legal and moral personality of wife as well as that of the husband is preserved. This modern family is aiming at it. To achieve it is a problem which civilization is yet to solve.
The first two forms dominate more or less the uncivilized world. In the early stages of the historical investigation into the beginnings of civilization, it was thought that society arose out of the patriarchal family. However, the researches of Morgan and other opened up new fields of speculation.
Thest researches aim at showing that the lower we go in the scale of civilization the more we find that type of family opposite to Patriarchal type i.e. family in which mother is put for many purpose in the place of the father’s position. Among civilized nations which have passed out of this stage we find definite traces of this having gone though this type at some earlier period.
As Hobhouse puts it, “These observations led to the setting up of matriarchal as opposed to patriarchal theory and to the belief that in the dim red dawn of man there was a golden age of women, which later on passed into the iron age of male nepotism.” Hobhouse, however, differs from this view on the ground that it is a wrong inference drawn from substantially sound facts.
As he himself puts it, “what is really common among the simpler people is not matriarchy, but mother-right and along with mother-right, and where it most flourish, it is perfectly greatest misogynist could desire.” The actual numbers of cases where the woman has a controlling or even an equal position are very few. Hobhouse’s contention is that where that father is not head of the household that place is taken by the wife’s brother and the maternally organized clan consists of units composed each of a women, her brother, and her children. The woman is not necessarily any better off because she is ruled by a brother in place of a husband.
If we accept this theory we cannot take too seriously the theory of golden age of a woman under matriarchy. Leaving aside this extreme claim we can still say that a woman had decidedly certain advantages in since she did not leave the kinship in which she was born. The place where she lived was quite familiar to her. It did give in some measure a kind of freedom to a woman which she required for the development of her personality.
The other advantage of the matriarchal system was mainly for the children. In case of any estrangement between their parents, the children did not suffer because they had no exclusive emotional attachment.
The mother would remain in the house even after the divorce whatever the reason for the springing up of this type of family it had definite advantages in case of women. However, the natural family was not complete in this type.
There was no union in the real sense of the term between the husband and the wife. Thus union was achieved in the second term of family, viz. patriarchal type of family.
The distinguishing feature of the patriarchal family was the absolute rule of the husband on the one hand and complete subjection of the women on the other. According to the Hobhouse even in case of mother-right flimsily it was the man brother if not the husband that ruled.
In this patriarchal type of family they put a seal on this absolute rule of the patriarch. His will was the dominant will and all others had to merge their personality in that of the head of the family. In case of the patriarchal family the first advantage was that it gave absolute freedom to men.
It made divorce easier for him and difficult for women. Secondly, it brought about the complete union of the husband, wife and the children. It increased the efficiency of the family unit because action was based on the strict obedience to authority.
It brought also a sense of security and unity to members of the family and the family began to function as a unit. But these various advantages we have mentioned in case of the matriarchal and patriarchal forms of family are not at all real advantages when we remember that in both of these forms man and wife are not united by the closest moral bond together with full legal and moral personality of both wife and the husband.
The industrial age gave a death blow to the older types of family and the new modern family evolved. The modem family had numerous advantages over the earlier forms of family. The modern family had one distinct advantage of being a smail unit. It almost consisted of the husband, wife and children that too very few. It was a restricted conjugal family.
This small size had certain other advantages. It enabled the family to have better housing. It enabled the family to have better type of hygiene-standards; it increased the possibility of medical aid. It relieved the women of continuous strain of pregnancy and rearing up unhealthy children. It also afforded better and more facilities to children for education. It made family a compact unit which could be based and developed on planning.
The modern family afforded more freedom to woman and it also conceded the point of equality of status between man and woman. Children could become economically self-sufficient at a much earlier age. The new form of family brought about a radical change in the roles woman played in the family.
Finally it tried to evolve a pattern of the husband-wife relationship based on the closet moral bond and yet affording both of them full opportunities for the development of their personalities. The woman retrieved much of her prestige; man gained more in prestige by graciously granting to the woman what was legitimately due to her.
Comparatively speaking the modern form of family has decidedly more advantages than its earlier counterparts. But this is not to say that the modern family is perfectly ideal. For even, the modem family leaves much to be desired.