Factors of change and process of disintegration of the joint family

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With the growth of industry and the rise of cities, family life and family patterns have changed. The economic functions are largely transferred to outside agencies. Increasing emphasis is, however, placed on psychological values such as affection, companionship and emotional security.

In order to measure the overall changes taking place in the family as an institution in India, we need to identify the major forces or factors that have brought about changes in the family structure. A host of inter-related factors, economic, educational, legal, demographic, have affected the family in India. All these factors had a cumulative effect on different aspects of family living.

The present is a period of transaction. The family withstood the sweeping changes in the cultural pattern and found ways to adjust to each new situation-. It will continue to survive, whatever further changes the future may bring.

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Factors of change and process of disintegration of the joint family

Generally the factors leading to changes in the family are discussed in the context of the issue of disintegration of the joint family. In addition to this here it has been discussed in the context of social changes occurring since the British rule in India.

(a) Economic factors:

Introduction of cash transactions, diversification of occupational opportunities, technological advancements are some of the major economic factors which have affected the joint family system in India.

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British opened opportunities for employment in government service, due to this people often left their traditional occupations and moved to cities or towns where these occupations were available. Married ones often took their wives and children, and sometime relatives along with them. Role relationships in the family also affected where both men and women work.

(b) Educational Factors:

During British rule, opportunities for higher education emerged in a significant way. All castes and communities have access to education that got educationally developed. Individualistic, liberal and humanitarian ideas began to question some of the Hindu customs and practices relating to child marriage, denial of right of education to women, denial of property to women, ill treatment of widows. Educated young men not only desired to postpone their marriage, but wanted to marry an educated girl. It is expected that educated girls have different kind of influence on family.

(c) Legal factors:

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Indian Workmen Compensation Act, 1923 and the Minimum Wages Act, 1948, helped to reduce the economic reliance of members on the joint family for economic support.

In 1930 Hindu Gain of Learning Act declared that the property acquired by a Hindu out of his education is his personal property though his education was paid by joint family in 1937, by a law woman acquires a limited right to her husband’s property.

Hindu succession Act, 1956 gave a daughter and son equal rights to the father’s property. This legislation challenged the inheritance patterns that prevailed in joint families.

(d) Urbanisation:

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There have been many studies which shows that migration to cities has contributed to the rapid disintegration of large size family unit in village and town. Observation based on family data show a high percentage of nuclear family in cities. With problem of finding accommodation and limited space available for living in cities, it become difficult for an average urbanite to maintain and support a large family.

Factors of change leading to Reinforcement of the joint family

Sociologists, while trying to measure the changes taking place in family life observes that urbanization and industrialization have, in fact served to strengthen some aspect of joint family.

1. K.M. Kapadia (1972). Families which have migrated to cities still retain their bonds to joint family in village and town. This is evident from the physical presence of relatives at a time of events like birth, marriage, death, illness. Sometimes members of the families living in cities go to the village for these events.

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The joint family ethic is very much evident in the performance of certain role obligations.

A family in the city has the duty to give shelter to all immigrants from the rural family, (Young men in pursuit of education or work, or relatives seeking medical treatment). So it can happen that in the course of time, a kind of joint family formed in the city is linked to the family in the village by close family ties, by a system of mutual rights and obligation and also by the undivided family property.

2. Thesis that joint family is dysfunctional to the process of industrialisation has been challenged by those who point out that some of the successful industrial establishments in the country are managed by the individuals who strictly live by joint family rules. In his study “Indian Joint Family in Modern Industry,” Milton Singer (1968) points out that the joint families continue to be the norm among industrial entrepreneurs, despite changes in their material conditions of living.

3. Pauline Kolenda, in her study Regional Differences in Family Structure in India 1987 observes that industrialisation serves to strengthen the joint family because an economic base has been provided to support it because more hands are needed in a renewed family enterprise or because kin can help one another in the striving for upward mobility.

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