Sunday, July 14, 2013

Family System / Joint vs. Nuclear Family System

My article with subject of "Family System" has been published in famous fashion magazine "ASIANA Wedding" (Vol 2, Issue 6, 2012). I hope you will have enjoyable read and will get to learn something new.

Joint vs. Nuclear Family System
By: Prof. Ayesha Kashif

After my appearance in Pakistan’s leading talk show on subject of pros and cons of different family system. I decided to develop understanding of masses on this important subject. Concern of living in any type of family is not that simple. As individuals there are several forces which motivate us to live in certain order.
This article does not advocate any type of family system, but here attempt is to highlight key family systems, reasons why they exist and what are forces on families that determine their decision in a particular family system. Eventually, after reading this article one will be able to decide, which mode of family living system is likely to bring more comfort and happiness.
In contemporary world, there exists many family systems, but we will be discussing two most popular family types in Pakistan. That is:

  • Nuclear Family System
  • Joint Family System

Nuclear family is said to be a family system, where a couple (married legally & religiously) is living with their children (adopted or born).

Joint family system is also known as “Extended Family” or “Extended Family System”. In this discussion “joint family system”, will be used for family that is living with two generations, i.e. Grand Parents living with their complete family tree till Grand Children, or Great-Grand Parents living with their whole layer of family tree till Great-Grand Children.

Let us discuss causes as how and why humans decide to live in any type of family system. For ages, humans have been living in societies due to numerous factors, including security, distribution of work and luxury of socializing. 

Being social animal, humans tend live with each others. But humans also like to maintain limits of privacy too. And this need of privacy increases when society attains maturity. It can easily be observed that educated class of any society demands their privacy to be maintained. When this requirement arises, humans tend to make their smaller communes.

Given, nature of humans to be free, it will not be wrong to state that higher the financial strength of society, greater is probability of families to live in nuclear, single-parent or some other isolated setup. That family arrangement will become popular in this case, which allows higher freedom. It might be pointed out that financial strength might not be the only reason of preferred family setup. Yes, there are other factors determining family setup too.

Think for a moment, when in public, why do we act in certain way? We change our body language, tone of voice, dress and all gesture according to that environment. Same way, humans tend to live their life style as per society’s expectation. If it is norm in society for children to establish their separate units after marriage, here is higher probability to have “Nuclear Family System” as popular arrangement in society. And new couples are highly likely to follow the norm.

But determinants do not end here, other than financial factor and norm of society, another key determinant is norm of family. If family tradition is very strong and leave very high influence on its members; then family members are highly likely to stay in family influenced mode of living. This is usually evident in extended family systems, where members are encouraged and expected to show their loyalty to their extended family. i.e. In Pakistan’s tribal areas, where family members have very strong ties. Huge families along with their complete family tree are likely to live in their big houses. 

All three factors complement one another, in case of extended family example. Having one locus of financial control in hands of family head is very important. This can be done either when whole family is dependent on one single source of income, i.e. same agricultural land or some other form of business. Or it can be done through very strong family ties where every member is expected to present portion of their income to head of family; in turn, head of family will manage and distribute finances. This will usually be observed where family association might provide benefits like, respect in society, political influence or might be other power needs that get satisfied by staying with main family name.

Summing up, any mode of family system is acceptable in different circumstances, but while considering any mode of family system, all three key determinants needs to be considered by families very rationally and these three determinants are:

  1. Economic strength of individual / welfare of society
  2. Socially desired family setup
  3. Values of family / Associative strength of family

In case couples demand freedom and is happily willing to compromise on social pressure and does not find key family name as a challenge, they may wish to live in unit family system. Obviously care and respect of parents shall always be considered. In our social setup, couple living with parents might also be considered as mid form of Unit Family System & Joint Family System.

Families’ where members have similar financial status and significant freedom is provided to every couple, they might wish considering joint family or extended family system better. But having strong family values and moral values are very important to live in this system, otherwise regular conflicts among members will be experienced.

To provide one liner, if couple believes more in values and love to live in big family and compromise on their own privacy & freedom they shall live in joint family system. If smaller unit believe they may live in smaller house, and have sufficient financial muscle to support their extended family at distance and support their own smaller unit, they shall opt for nuclear family setup, because in Pakistan, both types of family systems are socially acceptable.

Hence no single mode of living can be said as the best for everyone. Families shall decide their mode of living, considering above provided factors.

This was my attempt of generating awareness about different family systems coupled with advantages and disadvantages of each.

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