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Nuclear family vs Joint Family – A parent’s point of view

When I saw the topic of ‘the kind of family set up and its impact on raising a child’ being discussed, I couldn’t resist but to offer an opinion of my own, at first. But when I got down to actually writing about the subject, I simply couldn’t make up my mind as to which set up I prefer. I mean it’s not a black and white situation at all! So, here I am – with a comparative analysis if you will, which I always resort to, when ever I am confused. After all what better way to decide what you prefer than to list out the pros and cons in any circumstance!

Let me begin by introducing myself, I am a parent of a 4 year old girl and I have lived in a joint family for the first 4 years of my marriage and then as a nuclear family over the last 2 years. So I have experienced the extremes of these set ups, the good and the bad! Hence without further ado, let’s compare the notes:

The Joint Family

According to experts, our family and community networks profoundly influence our values and attitudes in ways that one can’t even imagine. So how do joint families influence the child?

  • Joint families are like the first training grounds, where a child learns interpersonal skills. Children in joint families learn lessons of patience, tolerance, cooperation and adjustment. I have actually seen this happen with my daughter and her cousin who lived with us. They learnt to share more easily, learnt to co-operate and adjust under practically every circumstance.
  • When a child lives with his/her grandparents and other older members of the family from the time he/she is born, they grow up appreciating, admiring and loving them. They also learn to adjust more easily with different kinds of people and learn to be more flexible. I know this for certain, because, when my husband and I have moved to another city, we took a long time to settle in, but my little one had made friends in no time, and found her feet very easily in the new place.
  • In a joint family a child learns and is reared by a number of people, thus dividing work, saving time and creating a spectrum of exposure and awareness. And for working parents, it’s a blessing to have reliable, trustworthy caretakers for your child, isn’t it? After all, who better than to impart the same values that you have imbibed than the grandparents?

However, certain disadvantages do exist:

  • In a joint family with more than one child, there is bound to be constant comparison, something that could lead to the development of unhealthy competition and feelings of envy.
  • There is also a tendency for joint families to be autocratic in nature and the head of the family, lays down the law in the household. While it may work in some scenarios, it can also be the cause of a lot of friction. Younger members of the household can feel their self-identity being inhibited and often struggle with a constant conflict between their conservative orientation and their exposure through their other social interactions. Joint families can also pose a larger resistance to change as the opinions on any matter are more than one.

The Nuclear Family

Today, in India, we have a generation of people who after having lived in a joint family system have taken the initiative to break out and start a nuclear family. A large contributor to this break away was industrialization. Industrial revolution brought with it increase in job opportunities in and around major industrialized and commercial cities and towns. So how have nuclear families panned out for a child’s well being?

  • Most parents want to bring up their children with their own set of values and principles, without any “interference”. This is something that an be easily established in a nuclear family, wherein the child has to follow only one set of rules, and is not confused with varying opinions.
  • There is more space for individuality and self-expression in a nuclear family set-up.
  • Nuclear families make the child more self reliant and decisive as he/she is not as interdependent on a large number of family members to make decisions and take action. This independent streak can come in handy, as your child grows into an adult and has to make many decisions himself/herself.
  • Communication channels between the child and parent can also be more open and transparent, in a nuclear family, as parents have their attention focused on their child, without having to divide their time with too many household responsibilities and between other members of the household.

While nuclear families seem to work for today’s generation in a lot of ways, there are challenges that parents face while raising their child in this set – up.

  • If both parents are working, as we were, one may have to leave their children alone with caretakers for given lengths of time. This can mean children being brought up by care centers or domestic help, who may not be as attentive or reliable as family members.
  • Parents may also have to deal with attention-related problems which are usually by-products of nuclear family systems, where the child, finding both parents absent and no one else from the family, usually resorts to attention seeking behavior. Being sad, insolent, and reclusive among other things.
  • Children raised in nuclear families also tend to be less tolerant and more impatient, as they are not accustomed to dealing with too many people with varied personalities from an early age, and living in a nuclear family does not demand a great deal of flexibility of them. While I may not have experienced this myself, I have seen many of my friends’ children who come from nuclear backgrounds, struggling to adapt themselves to different situations, especially when they have relatives visiting them.  

At the end of the day, it is clear, there is not right or wrong choice. However, too much of anything is unhealthy. So while staying in a large family may rob your child off his/her personal space, and independence, staying in a nuclear family for too long also can create a disconnect between your child and your extended family.  The question is taking all factors into consideration, what would you rather choose?

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Comments (4)

Well, very well penned article, it is indeed. I would like to add that while living in a nuclear family, you still can be in constant touch with the other relations of your family on various occassions which are customery, like common gathering during birthdys, anniversarys or any other parties or weekends. Moreover, children can also spend part of their summer n winter vacations with their other relatives- be it grandpartents or cousions. The teachings during these times from them can also lead to a healthy relationship rather than the constant nagging in every decsion making as you said. Children will also look forward to such holidays in which they can spend quality time with them rather thatn being a constant burden and responsiblity.

I want to now how i would lead my kid not to do the same bad things cousins do.Not to be over naughty & in disciplained.

Dear Samriti………The key is to help the child recognize acceptable behavior from unacceptable on his/her own.You may not always be around to monitor him/her, therefore the idea is to help him/her make decisions on how he/she should behave in a situation. You can do so, by questioning him/her on the consequences of his/her behavior or asking him/her to think about how his/her behavior might hurt someone’s feelings. Making him/her aware and letting him/her choose will ensure he/she will maintain a consistent behavior more often than not even in your absence.

My opinion is to bring up the child in their own thoughts and value without any ”interuption”will be easily done in nucler family,where kids is not been confused by any extra rules or orders.
When i first saw the topic i little hesitated but like to share my i am not against joint family but i prefer nuclear family ,which is the perfect stage to share and care your son/daughter with your partner.

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