Evolution of Nuclear Families - West Meets East

As the nuclear family system has gained traction, the percentage of ‘couple only’ families has increased. Though nuclear families are the norm in India, the percentage of single-mother households is on the rise, according to the United Nation’s Progress of the World’s Women 2019 report. 

Nuclear families (couples with children) form the highest % of households. Extended families (one or more parents or relatives) are also common. There are more single-mother households (5.4%) than single-father households. Over half the unmarried women aged 25-54 are part of the labor force. This proportion halves when they are married, possibly due to family constraints. A higher % of married men than single men are part of the labor force, which means that marriage does not affect their participation. But with equality rights advocates keeping a close watch, the relationship dynamics are rapidly changing. Companies with more inclusive policies are providing time off for couples with infants and day-care businesses are on the rise. 

Family yearbook albums these days have a common scene: Extended families from all over the country or even the world occasionally getting together for a big reunion seated around adjoined makeshift tables to accommodate everyone for a family dinner. But new research from economists at the University of Houston offers strong evidence that children in larger families are more likely to fall behind in cognitive achievement and have behavioral and other problems. Families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood performance on cognitive tests and measures of social behavior. Importantly, we find that these negative effects are not merely temporary disruptions following a birth but in fact persist throughout childhood. 

Nowadays a focus more towards functional families are dealt with seriously for all responsible couples. In a functional family, parents strive to create an environment in which everyone feels safe and respected. A positive home requires parents to set and uphold rules, but not resort to overly rigid regulation of any one person’s behavior. In a healthy household, slights and misbehaviors are readily addressed, and boundaries are clear and consistent, all of which help avoid disharmony in the longer term. 

Carle C. Zimmerman while publishing his paper “The Future of the Nuclear Family” during his brief tenure at University of Rajasthan in 1972 aptly summarizes: 

“The nuclear family is a “biological” phenomenon of primate human society. It is not an adaptive form in an evolutionary series of human development nor a functional aspect of the industrial society. Rather it is practically universal in human time and social space. Its nucleus is a unit of husband-wife and parents’ children. Its regular form is often mis-arranged by death or desertion or lack of progeny but its modal type is most constant. Under all conditions it tends to have in the household with its dependentr aged parents of husband or wife and sometimes more distant relatives but these semi-extraneous elements are there more from necessity and filial piety than from any other reason.