Understanding Indian families
The term ‘family’ is derived from the Latin word ‘familia’ that refers to a group of individuals who form one household under one head and one domestic government, including parents, children, and servants, (ONLINE ETYMOLOGY DICTIONARY, 2017). The activity, structure, social and psychological relationships are mainly determined by the social norms that includes child rearing as an important responsibility. It is the most cohesive form of social group that puts priority of group goals over individual goals and in this respect; Indian families are far more different from their western counterparts, which is individualistic in nature (Sethi, 1989). Families certainly have social and cultural context that are found to determine its size, shape, type and the family process by drawing boundaries, setting rules for communication pattern, discipline, distribution of power and hierarchy in families (McGoldrick, Giordano, & Pearce, 1996). Indian families are considered to be large, patriarchal, and collectivistic, the traditional form of which are believed to be strong, stable, close and resilient that ensures family integrity, loyalty, freedom of choice, privacy and personal space but at the cost of individuality (Mullatti, 1995).
Demographic characteristics, prevalent socio-religious beliefs and practices by large contribute to form the Indian family system. The Indian family is largely patriarchal in structure (Kapadia, 1982). The distribution of power in making decision for rest of the members is bestowed upon male members i.e husband, elder brother, father, grandfather etc. in a patriarchal family set up. They are considered the saviour of the members providing their physical and moral protection. In the last couple of decades, this patriarchal form is marching slowly towards equalitarian interaction among the educated, urban middle classes, and among some rural set ups (Mullatti, 1995).
In Patriarchal structure responsibility, roles, control, and distribution of resources within the family are strictly determined by age, gender, and generation. The establishment of the family system is believed to be mainly for the fulfilment of religious obligations like ancestor worship, begetting a male child and passing social religious traditions to the next generation.
The Hindu Code Bill of 1954-1956 has introduced a few changes in this system by allowing some share of the property to the daughter, inter-religion and -caste marriage rights, equal rights to women with respect to adoption, divorce, and remarriage.
In rural India, though agriculture is the main occupation, there are not many large land holdings. This, and modern education and other related factors, make it difficult to maintain joint families (Mullatti, 1995)