Family System

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The Indian society has seen massive changes in the 20th century. Initially, the change was slow. With the advent of English medium education, followed by the entry of television and later cell phones into the Indian homes, the pace of change increased dramatically. Education had a significant impact on the standard of living both in qualitative and monetary terms. It led to the birth of the great Indian middle class, smaller family units, nuclear families and the aware, confident and less submissive Indian woman.


Changing Role Of Woman

The advent of television not only changed the face of entertainment in India, it had a significant impact on the Indian family. The woman, who used to schedule her household tasks to suit the needs of her husband and children, now planned her day to keep herself free for her daily soap operas. These daily soap operas made the woman more aware of how she could look better, feel better and even make her house look better. And if it cost money, so be it. She was willing to use her education to supplement her income. With the income of women matching that of her husband, he started giving her work, her income and even her needs more importance. She slowly adopted western clothes. However her responsibilities also increased. In addition to cooking and taking care of the kids, she is now expected to be paying the bills, keeping track of the household finances, savings and investments and taking care of outside chores – something that Indian men were taking care of earlier. She has her own mobile phone and does not need to join a ‘kitty group’ to party with her friend circle. She is net savvy and is in touch with family and friends through e-mails. A few amongst her tribe are keen to manage home as well as work. So they are working from home, trading online in shares and futures, starting businesses, which are not boutiques but salary outsourcing firms, head hunting firms and even setting up online stores for Indian exotica.

Changing Role Of Man

The man of the house is also changing. Though he has longer work hours, more stress, he still finds time to party. He is more conscious of his looks, is willing to spend on his clothes, his tech toys and his car. He wants to try out new things –cuisine of different countries, adventure sports and new products. He is willing to change jobs and cities for better opportunities. He is also a family man. He is more approachable and open and is no longer the figure that the mother refers to for discipline only. He plays football with his son and watches cartoons with his daughter. He is still fond of cricket and the newspaper now competes with the Internet for his time. He likes his wife and kids well turned out and no longer believe in the adage – kids and wife should be seen and not heard. He is slowly opening to talking out issues.

Changing Role Of Kids

Though the kids of the new century have over ten kids’ TV channel to choose from, and do not have to wait for festival a birthdays for new clothes and gifts, the pressure on them has increased. Parents seem keen to live their life through kids. They want them to be good in study, read books and play with toys, which they themselves could never have and enhance their personality by joining various activities. The child, though confident has too much pressure. The new age child wears branded clothes, plays with branded toys and is more aware of the world around him than his parents. The child is more individualistic and has a mind of his or her own. He wants to decide what he wears, what and whom he plays with and how he or she wants to spend their free time. The child has more say than ever before in making decision pertaining to himself and his family.

The youth of the country has seen the maximum change. The advent of BPO and high paying jobs translates into a higher purchasing power. They can double their income in far shorter time compared to the earlier generation. The higher purchasing power helps them take care of their families or even influence purchasing decisions of their family. The increased career options available to the Indian youth have helped them improve their personality, knowledge, become more mature and ready to take different challenges. The impact of consumerism on the financially independent youth is clearly visible. The general trend is to spend eating out, entertainment, buying branded consumer goods or electronics or even buying a car or house. The motto is to 'live life king-size'.

Joint Family To Nuclear Family

Meanwhile joint families had slowly given way to nuclear family. Even the face of the existing joint family had changed. It was smaller, allowed for more space for the individual and daughter in laws were sitting and having dinner and watching soap operas with their father in laws – something that was unthinkable a decade earlier. With the rise of double income families, grandparents looked after grandchildren. The arrangement – grandparents having company in their old age and the women being able to work without worrying about their kids – seemed mutually beneficial.

However, the face of the Indian senior citizens was also changing considerably. Unlike their predecessor, crossing 60 did not mean immersing devoting their time to prayers, telling stories to grand kids and practicing ascetic lifestyle. This generation that had struggled economically to give English medium education to their children and taken care of their parents – putting their needs aside, was now ready to live life. They had the time and the money to fulfill their wishes. They loved meeting their children but were happier amongst friends; liked visiting relatives occasionally but took the time aside to travel both within and outside the country; were not ready to continue with the dilapidated TV or the old model car and were willing to learn online banking and online trading.

The absence of joint family system has increased the stress in bringing up children, with working mothers only relying on childcare centers. In Indian cities and towns, it is even more difficult where there are not enough facilities available for care of children. Leaving kids with household help has its share of risks and problems. The nuclear family has to cope with all stresses - big and small on their own in the absence of the luxury of sharing and downloading worries on someone (other than spouse) whom we feel close and connected to. This has led to increase in several problems in the society like depression, suicides and heart disorders due to highly stressed lives. Moreover, families especially those staying outside the country miss out on celebrations and festivities that bind them to their culture and give them a sense of being at home. These families face difficulty in passing on the cultural values – something, which is learnt and taught by observation and example.

The New Indian

The new Indian is more individualistic; less adjusting, focused more on his or her own satisfaction and pleasure and is less concerned with societal stigma. This has led to higher divorce rates, less respect for others needs and requirements, less concern for others’ feelings and less sensitivity to people and surroundings.

The pace of changes has been so fast that the fabric of the family system and society seems unable to keep pace with it, thereby leading to dichotomies and problems. There is a need to conduct a scientific study on the subject, identify the changes, their positive and negative impact and create support systems to guide those who are unable to cope with the change.