In developed countries, the joint family can provide financial support if one member goes out of work. Young adults can be guided by their grandparents in a number of ways because of the latter’s experience. Elders in the family can provide valuable advice to husband and wife in case of their dispute or differences. They often act as mediators and prevent breaking of families.
Having experimented with nuclear families and experienced its shortcomings we can develop a model that draws on the benefits of both the joint and the nuclear family. We might even be forced to do so when resources become very scarce over a period of time. It has to be done when our survival is at stake. Today, our younger generation, after having lived in the joint family is ready to break out and start a nuclear family. But, fortunately they have come to realise the relative strengths and weaknesses of both the systems.
The nuclear family gives a lot of freedom from traditions, orthodoxy and old ways of life. Hence, wherever the parents and grown up children could not get along well, and if the adult children could afford they prefer to build a separate house and form a nuclear family. There is also an urge to build a house which one may call one’s own. As this happens, with most of the changes in society, initially the people from the old system do not take this change very well. They are saddened to see the disintegration of the family and the erosion of the old values.
The emergence of individualistic nuclear family was viewed by them as dilution in relations between the parents and the adult children. But as the nuclear families tend to become the order of the day, the older generations have come to accept the reality.
The other factor that gave rise to nuclear families is industrialisation. The Industrial Revolution brought with it a phenomenal increase in job opportunities in and around major industrialized cities and towns-whether dominated by manufacturing or trade. This forced men and women to move out of their family home and away from parents. Here, even those parents who are extremely attached to their children preferred to stay at their original house and did not move away along with the moving children.
They accepted, though with a great degree of sadness, that their children have to move away for their career and start a new life away from them. Based on their experience of two fundamentally different models of family, some people have suggested a new model. In it, the basic and underlying concept of the joint family system would remain the same. The changes in which in the members interact with one another shall be incorporated. In the joint family system more than one family live under one roof. In the revised model, the families coming together to live under one roof may not be of same parent family.
The revived model also gives us a chance to analyse the mistakes made in the old joint family system and find ways and means of not repeating them. The joint family system thrives on love and respect. However, the elders in the family need to understand that love regard and respect cannot be demanded as a matter of right, they have to be earned. The seniors should be excessively demanding, meddlesome or fault finders. Each member in the joint family needs love and care. If it is denied, that member may contemplate a break-off.
The young adults in the family need some space. By space, we do not mean physical but mental space-the freedom to think and act according to his dreams and desires though within the permissible limits. Both the elders and the youngsters need to know their boundaries and never try to cross them. Living under one roof does not have to be about transgressing the personal space of the members.
Living under one roof may bring to the fore something which is known as generation gap. It is primarily the duty of the elders in the family, being experienced, that they should not impose their ideas upon the youngsters. They should treat them as their friends not juniors, and should accept the changes that have come about in society and the people including their children. If there is a difference of opinion over some issue, which is quite normal, it should not be allowed to chrysallise into disillusionment between the two sides. Each side should be prepared to concede some ground for the sake of the other. Instead of taking sides, and dividing the whole family into two disagreeing groups, some members should remain neutral so that they remain accessible to both the sides and act as moderators in case the dispute begins to take serious proportions.
It is important that members in a joint family system feel accepted for what they are and as they are. This means there should be an acceptance for a member’s weaknesses and limitations. The acceptance of other members should be realistic. Excessive demands of elders from the youngsters create distaste and ill feelings in the minds of youngsters and discontent and disappointment in the minds of the elders. Another important thing to be kept in mind is that if there are two sons, they should not be compared in terms of earnings or other parameters of success.
If the son earning more is praised at the expense of the one who earns less, this will certainly create hatred and jealousy between the two brothers. Some parents make the mistake of openly criticising their son who is financially weak or is less educated or is lower in status in terms of his job than some other member of the family. This results in either open outburst by that member which is a sign of revolt, or nursing of hatred against the parents. The structure of joint family gets endangered in such case. The parents must realise that in a joint family there are persons of different strengths.
One of the great advantages of this is that different strengths of different members can be potentially enriching to the family and it can provide a sense of fulfillment to the family as a whole. The joint family can become a training ground for the future generations to learn and develop attribute and skills of living in harmony with other citizens in society. If our family model is based on tolerance, togetherness and warmth, it will be reflected positively in society at large.