Desai, based on the data collected from Mahuwa, examined the household dimension of family. Jointness is a process, a part of household cycle. A family becomes joint from its nuclear position when one or more sons get married and live with the parents or it becomes joint also when parents continue to stay with their married sons. When married sons establish their independent households, and live with their unmarried children they become nuclear families. This is only a structural dimension of family.

Desai outlines structure of family as follows:

  1. Husband and wife.
  2. Unimember households
  3. Husband wife and married sons without children and other unmarried children.
  4. The above group with other relatives who do not add to generation depth.
  5. Three generation groups of lineal descendents.
  6. Four or more than four generations of lineal descendents.

In this classification emphasis is on the understanding of structure or composition of households based on generation and lineage combination. House is the unit of the above classification. There may be several reasons for change in the structure of family. According to Desai there are two types of reasons: natural and circumstantial Jointness itself could be a cause for a change in family. For example, married brothers or parents and married children staying together separate due to unmarried brother’s or son’s marriage. Brothers separate after parent’s death. Separation also takes place because of unwieldy size of the parental family or due to shortage of space in the household. The circumstantial reasons for separation are due to contingent situations in man’s life. These are:

  1. Men staying with relatives such as the maternal uncle later on establish one’s own household;
  2. Other relatives staying with the head die or go away; and
  3. Head of the family goes away alone for business purposes.

Besides the structural aspect of family Desai examines carefully the types of jointness based on degree, intensity and orientation in regard to functions and obligations which people perform for each other through living separately and at times at different far off places. Desai finds the following five types of households:

  1. Households with zero degree of jointness
  2. Households of low degree jointness (joint by way of the fulfilment of mutual obligations)
  3. Household with high degree of jointless (jointless by way of common ownership of property)
  4. Households with higher degree of jointless (marginally joint families)
  5. Households of highest degree of jointless (traditional joint families).

Desai concludes that today family is structurally nuclear and functionally joint based on the fact that 61 per cent are nuclear and 39 per cent are joint in Mahuwa with varying degrees as indicated above. Of the 423 respondents in Desai’s study only 5 per cent are not joint at all. There are 27 per cent families with low degree of jointness, 17 per cent with high degree, and 30 per cent with higher and 21 per cent with highest degree. Desai also reports that 220 respondents believe in jointness unconditionally, 24 have faith in muscularity unconditionally, 51 believe in jointness conditionally and 58 express their faith in nuclear family with certain conditions. It is undoubtedly clear that people have belief in joint family system, though it is another thing that they are constrained to live apart from their parents and brothers and other kin due to structural conditions on which they do not have any control.

Family is an unit with diverse and dynamic relationships within the household based on age, sex, kinship status, education, occupational status, place of work, office or power, status of in-laws etc. One cannot understand such a complex situation by looking at household dimensions of family from a legalistic point of view. An extended household is a miniature world, and as such it reflects the ethos of wider social system of which it is a constituent unit Besides the diverse and dynamic relationships within the household composition, basic norms of deference and etiquette, authority of the head of the family and rights and duties of other members, performance of common and particular tasks etc., are some other dimensions to be noted in the functioning of family in India. There are also regional variations in household dimensions. Higher education does not weaken multy- member household and since higher education is found more among the upper and upper-middle castes, joint family is more among them than the lower caste and class people. In functional terms, jointness of household is nothing but a structure of obligations among the closest kinsmen.


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