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Has India Moved Too Far Away from the Joint Family System?

When German photographer Nora Bibel came all the way from Berlin to Bengaluru to take snaps of joint families in India, it became news. The story published in Times of India (November, 2014) created waves, sparking a new debate about whether Indians should revisit their traditional family setup, reversing the trend of nuclear families. Is it already too late to make a U-turn? Or maybe it is no longer a feasible idea. Let’s first understand what drives the recent trend of independent living.

A nuclear family setup, which usually consists of a mother, father and children, provides more privacy and independence to each household member. Couples get more space to take care of their personal needs. You do not have to standyour nosy in-laws or relatives. You are free to dine out orenjoy private moments with your spouse any day. You have more control over your financial decisions. You can get a health insurance plan covering onlyyour immediate family; and no one is going to question your broadmindedness.As a parent, you can provide individual attention to your children. However, a nuclear family structure is not without its problems.


How Relevant is the Joint Family System

In most nuclear families, both parents have a career of their own. This may leave your kids alone and completely unguided. In comparison, living together with grandparents and cousins enables your kids to learn relationship values and teamwork. You can continue your work, while other family members can take care of your children.Growing up in a joint family is a chance to listen fascinating stories from grandparents, playing together with cousins, sharing happiness and sorrow, andeven getting financial support. Just because you have a steady job or a family floater health insurance policy does not mean you cannot get into financial troubles. Some experts believe that staying together is more important in this age of economic uncertainty, mounting stress, and loneliness.


Is India Moving Back towards a New Family Structure?

The joy of living in an extended family may finally outweigh the advantages of independent living, say some experts. In a country like India where nothing is considered more important than family, youngsters may eventually adopt a new family structure called “joint nuclear family.” No matter wherethe family members stay, they would be more careful about keeping the spirit of togetherness alive, believe experts. They would help each other in every possible way – whether by giving emotional support or providing advice about choosing a health insurance plan. A 2013 Times of India reportquoted director Sudeshna Roy as saying, “Little condominiums are the new face of joint families wherein every family living in independent housing estates/flats contribute in the well-being of extended families.”


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