Social Institutions: Continuity And Change

Social Institutions: Continuity And Change


What are the characteristics of the various forms of the family—Discuss.


There are two broad forms of family:(i) The nuclear family and (ii) The joint family. The joint families are further divided in two forms—(a) Patrilineal and Patrilocal family and (b) Matrilineal and Matrilocal family. A third form of family is the extended family which is not a very common form.

Another classification adds two forms i.e. (i) the polygamous family and (ii) the polyandrous family. Polygymous family is based upon one man having more than one wife whereas the polyandrous family is based upon one woman married to more than one husband at the same time.

We would like to define the structure of these family forms as under—

(i) Nuclear Family:It is a group of persons consisting of husband, wife and their un-married children. It is a basic grouping of mates and their offsprings. The kinship relationships in nuclear family are husband-wife, father-son, father-daughter, mother-son, mother-daughter, brother-brother, sister-sister and brother-sister. This is the smallest composite family unit. There may be supplemented nuclear family units with widowed parents of the husband or his younger brother and sisters as residents.

(ii) Joint family:It consists of more than one nuclear family. All the members are blood relations (except wife and husband) or close kins and generally share common residence, kitchen and property. Joint family have three or more generations but two or more colateral families living together in a common residence and sharing common kitchen and property also form a joint family. This family is the hallmark of traditional indian society having very deep roots in history. Its traditional form is found in India even today however, in meagre number.

(iii) Extended family:When closely related kins other than those forming nuclear or joint family are added to the nuclear family, it takes the form of an extended family. These other kins can be those to which the nucleus kins surrounded by distant co-sanguineous kins or those in which kinship universe is extended still further E.g. Parents-in-laws living with son-in-laws.

(iv) Matrilineal Family:In this family the husband resides with his wife in her mother's house. The concestry in this family is traced to the maternal line. It is also matriarchal in nature because the authority in this family lies with the mother. She is the head of the family. This is not a common form of family. For example, the Nayars of South India live in matrilocal families.

(v) Patrilineal Family:Most of the families world over are of this kind in the patrilineal, patriarchal and patrilocal family ancestry is traced to the paternal line. Unlike matrilocal families, the ancestors in the patrilocal families are men. Patrilocal family is also patriarchal. The authority lies with the male members and the final authority rests with the eldest male member of the family.

(vi) Polygynous family:When a man marries more than one wife, the family organisation which formed by virtue of this, is a polygynous form. Most of the tribal families are polygynous.

(vii) Polyandrous family:In this family a woman has more than one husband. This is composed of the fraternal polyandry where several brothers marry one wife.

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