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Nuclear Family Vs. Joint Family

Nuclear Family Vs. Joint Family - The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

A joint family consists of related members of a family living under the same roof, and conversely a nuclear family is just a single family. There are some genuine differences in the two concepts and every system has merits and demerits of its own.
Scholasticus K
Last Updated: Mar 17, 2018
There are several definitions of 'family' and from the viewpoint of sociology, 'a social unit or institution of member's living together' is understood to be an apt definition. The importance of family is highly pronounced as it is a basic building block of the society and having a family is one of the most important necessities of every human being. Civilizations such as Roman, Vedic, Babylonian, and Greek, had highly sophisticated and evolved societies due to the powerful institution of families. In today's world, there are two predominant classifications of families, one, a nuclear family and joint family.
General Definitions
Nuclear Family
  • In modern times, a nuclear family is simply defined to be a social unit with a mother, father, and children and a pet(optional) being the key constituents.
  • The family, as defined above, has certain subsets, such as live-in relations, dating individuals, individuals living alone, or living with their pets.
  • This concept is principally based upon the emotion of parental love and sibling bonding and hence the structural functionalism (mechanism of relationships) is quite simple, yet the psychology involved becomes quite complex.
Joint Family
  • The institute of joint family, constitutes all first-blood relatives living under the same roof. This includes all first cousins and their respective hierarchical generations.
  • There are some subsets such as an extended family (second cousins under one roof), nuclear family living with grandparents of the youngest generation. Polygamy and polyandry which is practiced in some parts of the world is also a joint family.
  • In case of a joint family, the primary emotion is a general affectionate bond between two generations and within the members of the generations.
Existence in the Modern Era
The society, adapts and changes as per the need of time. The concept of nuclear family started becoming quite common, post the industrial revolution. The European society adopted the concept widely in the post industrial revolution era, and years prior to the world wars. The concept became quite popular in the United States as the area of the States started expanding and a need to extend the civilization was felt. Several intellectual revolutions, beliefs, cultures, and subcultures supported this phenomenon in Europe and the Americas. Liberty, financial freedom, equality, and rational progressive thoughts such as feminism and freedom from social strata and hierarchy further pushed the popularity of nuclear families. As of today, same-sex marriages and live-in or open relationships are other factors that contribute to this. Nuclear families began to appear and started spreading rather quickly in the years surrounding the cold war, in all the Afro-Asian nations, especially former European colonies. The basic factor that promoted such a popularity was the modernization and development of these nations which took place at that time.
Joint families on the other hand have been an important faction of the society since the genesis of mankind. Tribes, small villages, communities, and such small civilization units are the ancestors of the joint families. These are still common in several parts of the world, such as India, China, African nations, and even Arab nations.
There are a significant number of arguments that have been put forth and countered with respect to the topic of nuclear family vs. joint family. There are several pros and cons that cover psychological, sociological, emotional, and even certain economic factors.
Sociological Factors

One crucial, psychological and sociological advantage of a joint family is that the human interaction and bonding between all family members proves to be a great base for an individual's growth. A person's constitution, mind, thought process, and ethics get well-shaped in such a situation. The person grows in a background which is usually free from any parent-offspring conflict, due to the presence of several grown-ups mentoring a growing mind. It puts to rest any drawbacks experienced due to the presence of a single parent. Interpreting the theories of Sigmund Freud, the older generations simply act as, ideal parents to the young and growing generations. Collectively an entire young generation becomes well-groomed, promising, and truth assuring. This perception is largely based upon the parental love showered by the older generation as the aunts and uncles, and grandparents, who tend to prove as quasi-parents. They are also instrumental in correcting any parenting fault that the actual parent depicts. Sounds very harsh, but at the same time, true.
To keep faith in modern and right values you need a nuclear family. One great thing about this type of family is that the transition from orthodox to modern is simple, which in case of a joint families is very difficult, though it is crucial. In a joint family which holds very, very strong cultural bonds and religious faith, transition to unorthodox thinking is almost impossible. Inversely, you will notice that a joint family, which is highly educated and reasonably liberal by thought, is a successful unit.
Psychological Factors

Since there are so many people to look up to and learn from, growing children become ethically strong, mature, with a powerful conscience. A joint family is a great place to get educated and pick up excellent habits, provided that there are no people with bad habits as the aforementioned logic also applies for bad habits. A joint family also provides excellent human company, and things such as materialism, negative psychology, sadistic thoughts, dearth of acceptance by another human, are absent. In such a case the human being becomes emotionally and morally strengthened, and in straight words there are no regrets about one's youth or childhood in one's mind. Sociologically speaking, every member of a joint family stands out as an important sociological and psychological instrument in a person's life.
A similar logic however can be applied in a nuclear family. In cases where the family is made up of 4-6 members, the emotional fulfillment and security becomes equally comforting and apt for our well-being. However, such an environment, is equally dangerous as the kids can turn into complete brats, or in the case of a joint family, the feeling of being spoiled can be dangerous as it can kill people's will to fight for goals. The key in both cases is to manage the level of comfort that an individual has.
Economic Factors

Lastly, it can be arithmetically proven that a joint family is a better economic unit, the principle logic being that one joint family, consumes lesser resources due to the philosophy of joint-living.
In conclusion it can be said that living in a joint family is tough, but worth the trouble. A nuclear family on the other hand is easier to live in, yet there is no food for emotions and we tend to lose our sensitivity through the decreasing interactions with our fellow humans.
Man being a social animal, needs appropriate society around him. In short both types of families tend to have an equal number of drawbacks and merits. Due to this, both the systems are required in the society.
Multiple people sitting around dinner table
Happy family walking with dog in the forest
Town Square In Bhaktapur