Family in Indian Society

The family is the basic unit of society. It is the first and the most immediate social environment to which a child is exposed. It is in the family a child learns language, the behavioral Patterns and social norms in his childhood.

In some way or the other the family is a universal group. It exists in tribal, rural and urban communities and among the followers of all religious and cultures. It provides the most enduring relationship in one form or other.


  • Family is a basic, definite and enduring
  • Family is formed by the relatively durable companionship of husband, wife who procreate children.
  • Family may be limited to husband, wife or only the father and his children or only the mother and her children.
  • Family is generally smaller in size companied to other social groups, organizations and associations.
  • Family can also be large in size in which persons belonging to several generations may live together.

On the basis of marriage:

Polygamous families may be described as families in which either spouse is allowed to have more than one spouse simultaneously. Monogamous families are those families in which the marriage is limited to one spouse.


On the basis of residence:

  • Patrilocal family: The family in which after marriage wife comes to reside in the family of her husband is known as patrilocal family. The patrilocal family is also patriarchal and patrilineal in
  • Matrilocal family: The family in which after marriage husband comes to reside in the family of her wife is known as matrilocal family. It is just opposite of patrilocal family. This type of family is also Matriarchal and Matrilineal in
  • Bilocal family: In this type of family after marriage the married couple change their residence alternatively. Sometimes wife joins in her husband’s house while at some other times husband resides in wife’s house. That is why this type of family is also known as family of changing
  • Neolocal family: After marriage when newly married couple establish a new family independent of their parents and settled at a new place this type of family is known as neo- local

On the basis of size and structure:

  • Nuclear Family: A nuclear family is a family which consists of husband, wife and their unmarried children. The size of nuclear family is very small. It is an autonomous unit. There is no control of the elders because newlyweds crate a separate residence for themselves which is independent of elders. It is also known as primary
  • Joint or Extended Family: It includes members of three to four generations. It is an extension of parent child This family is based on close blood ties. It is like the joint family of Hindu Society.

The eldest male member is the head of the family. It is characterized by common residence, common kitchen, and commensality, sharing of property, performance of ritual bonds, reciprocal obligations and sentiments.

Extended family consists of father, mother, their sons and their wife, unmarried daughters, grandchildren, grandfather, grandmother, uncles, aunts, their children and so on. This type of family found to exist in rural community or agrarian economy


On the basis of Authority:

  • Patriarchal Family: The family in which all the power remains in the hands of patriarch or father is known as patriarchal family. In other words in this type of family power or authority is vested in the hands of eldest male member of the family who is supposed to be the father. He exercises absolute power or authority over the other members of family. He owns family

After his death authority transferred to the eldest son of family. In this family descent is known through father line. In this type of family wife after marriage come to reside in his

husband’s house. Joint family system among the Hindus is a fine example of patriarchal family.

  • Matriarchal family: This type of family is just opposite of patriarchal family. In this family power or authority rests on the eldest female member of the family especially the wife or mother. She enjoy absolute power or authority over other members of the family. She owns all the family property. In this family descent is known through the mother. Headship is transferred from mother to the eldest daughter. Husband remain subordinate to his wife in a matriarchal This type of family is found among the Nayars of Kerala and among the Garo and Khasi tribes of Assam.

Family on the basis of descent:

  • Patrilineal family: The family in which descent or ancestry is determined through father line and continues through father it is known as patrilineal The property and family name is also inherited through father line. The patrilineal family is also patrilocal and patriarchal in nature.
  • Matrilineal family: Matrilineal family is just opposite of the patrilineal The family in which descent is determined through mother line or continues through mother it is known as Matrilineal family. The property and family name is also inherited through mother line. This right transferred from mother to daughter. A woman is the ancestor of family. The Matrilineal family is Matrilocal and Matriarchal in nature. This type of family found among the Nayars of Kerala and among tribals like Garos and Khasis.

Primary function

Some of the functions of family are basic to its continued existence. o Production and rearing of the child

  • Provision of home
  • Instrument of culture transmission
  • Agent of socialization
  • Status ascribing function
  • Agency of social control

Secondary function

  • Economic functions: With economic advancements, family has become more consuming unit than a producing one. Members are engaged in earning wages for ensuring socio- economic well-being of the
  • Educational functions: Family provides the basis for the child’s formal learning. In spite of great changes, the family still gives the child his basic training in the social attitudes and habits important to adult participation in social life
  • Religious functions: Family is a center for the religious training of the children. The children learn from their parents various religious
  • Recreational functions: Family provides the opportunities to parents and children for engaging in various recreational activities such as playing indoor games, dancing, singing, reading etc.

With the advent of industrial civilization with modern technology the structure and functions of the family fatedly changed. Today most of the traditional activities of the family were transferred to outside agencies; this further weakening the bonds that in the past kept the family together. There occurred a reduction in the educational, recreational, religious and protective functions of the family which have been more or less taken over by various institutions and agencies created for that purpose.

  • Changes in family: Family which was a principal unit of production has been transformed in the consumption unit. Instead of all members working together in an integrated economic enterprise, a few male members go out of the home to earn the family’s living. These affected family
  • Factory employment: It has freed young adults from direct dependence upon their families. This functional independence of the youngsters has weakened the authority of the head of the household over those earning members. In many cities even women too joined men in working outside the families on salary
  • Influence of urbanization: Various sociologists have revealed that the city life is more favorable to small nuclear families than to big joint families. Thus, urban living weakens joint family pattern and strengthens nuclear family
  • Legislative measures: Prohibition of early marriage and fixing the minimum age of marriage by the child marriage Restraint Act, 1929, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 have lengthened the period of education. Even other legislations such as the Widow Remarriage Act, 1856, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Hindu succession Act, 1956, all have modified inter personal relations within the family, the composition of the family and the stability of the joint
  • Changes in marriage system: Changes in the age of marriage, freedom in mate-selection and change in the attitude towards marriage has diminished marriage is not very much considered a religious affair but only a social ceremony. Modern marriage does not symbolize the superior authority of the family head over other
  • Influence of western values: Values relating to modern science, rationalism, individualism, equality, free life, democracy, freedom of women etc. have exerted a tremendous change on the joint family system in
  • Changes in the position of women: Main factor causing changes in the position of women in our society lie in her changing economic role. New economic role provided a new position in society and especially with respect to men.

Over the years, various sociologists have affirmed in their studies that the rise of nuclear families — consisting of a couple and their unmarried children — is consistent with rapid urbanization.

According to the 2001 census, out of 19.31 crore households, 9.98 crore or 51.7% were nuclear households. In the 2011 census, the share grew to 52.1% — 12.97 crore nuclear out of

24.88 crore households. However, there is the decline in the proportional share of nuclear households in urban areas. From 54.3% of the urban households of 2001, nuclear families have fallen to 52.3% of all urban households. In contrast, in rural areas, the share of nuclear families has risen from 50.7% to 52.1%.

Joint families, meanwhile, fell substantially from 19.1% (3.69 crore) to 16.1% (4 crore) across India. In rural areas, the dip was sharper – from 20.1% to 16.8% – than in urban India where it fell from 16.5% to 14.6%. Thus, the declining share of urban nuclear families is attributed to increased migration as well as lack of housing.