A nuclear family is a family group consisting of a father and mother and their children, who share living quarters. This can be contrasted with an extended family.
Nuclear families can have any number of children. Historical records indicate that it was not until the 17th and 18th centuries that the nuclear family became prevalent in Western Europe. With the emergence of post- industrialisation and early capitalism, the nuclear family became a financially viable social unit.
Nuclear family grows out of joint/extended family when there is migration from village to city for employment or other reasons where joint family is not possible due to paucity of needed larger residential accommodation, different occupation etc. That is why it is manly seen in urban areas, cities and metropolis.
Nuclear families may also exist in rural areas because the joint family cannot go on indefinitely owing to physical and social limitations. There is a limit to the number of people a house can accommodate and thus, there is bound to be fission into smaller nuclear families in the family cycle of development. There are other reasons too. Among agricultural labourers or low caste artisans, who have little
or no land to operate, joint living is not needed. Fight over scarce resources and food makes joint family unfeasible. Poverty, short life span women’s wage, employment outside home etc., are some other factors that make the existence of joint families difficult. This unclarity is often due to such negative rather than any positive cases.
Unlike the joint family, there is greater degree of freedom for spouses in the nuclear family. The status of the woman is higher and she often takes up employment outside the home. The material well- being of children, such as healthcare and education, is higher because of more resources available. Nuclear families are adaptable to social change.
The nuclear family misses all the advantages of joint living. It is too isolated and unconnected to elicit support or assistance during need or crisis. Its limited size poses practical problems for child rearing and care, more so when the mother works outside.
Children are deprived of a wider social world, emotional bonding, love and affection that a joint family provides. The old parents are left in the village or old age homes without personal care.
Joint Family is an extended family arrangement prevalent among Hindus of the Indian subcontinent, consisting of many generations living under the same roof.
All the male members are blood relatives and all the women are either mothers, wives, unmarried daughters, or widowed relatives, all bound by the common relationship. The joint family status being the result of birth, possession of joint cord that knits the members of the family together is not property but the relationship.
The family is headed by a patriarch, usually the oldest male, who makes decisions on economic and social matters on behalf of the entire family. The patriarch’s wife generally exerts control over the kitchen, child rearing and minor religious practices. All money goes to the common pool and all property is held jointly.
Six key aspects of Joint Family are :
• head of the family takes all decision
• all members live under one roof
• share the same kitchen
• three generations living together (though often two or more brothers live together, or father and son live together or all the descendants of male live together)
• income and expenditure in a common pool, property held together.
• a common place of worship
• all decisions are made by the male head of the family – patrilineal, patriarchal.
The joint family is ideally suited for land-based rural families for its economic, social and psychological advantages. The joint operation of property allows increased efficiency of pooled labour and economies of a single kitchen and household. It provides for efficient geriatric and childcare, as there are many women to look after them.
This enables mothers to work in fields or do household work. Children grow up with care, love and affection from grand parents, uncles, aunts, cousins etc., besides their own parents. Joint family is an ideal setting to learn
virtues of co-operation and collective living for the young people. This strengthens stability in larger society too. Pooled resources enable the family to avert any crisis or need.
Family festivals and occasions can be celebrated more elegantly, enhancing the prestige of all the members. In general, joint family ensures the happiness and well-being of all its members.
Joint families may also own industries/business (besides agriculture). There are many well known industry/business houses running their enterprises jointly owned them by brothers etc. in a Joint Family.
The system is not without disadvantages though. Since the system is essentially patriarchal, authority rests with men. Women in general have a low status and are often excluded from decision-making.
There is little freedom for junior male members. The family, more based on tradition, many not be open to change or accepting new elements.
The weight of the family is heavy on young couples who hardly have the space to cultivate a conjugal bond. It hinders the process of individual freedom.
There may be joint families in the matriarchal system also where mother/sister (often the youngest sister owns) live together with their spouses and children and the mother is the head of the family.