Thursday, October 08, 2009

Nuclear versus Joint Family

With the arrival of house guests this year, I made my way over to to review the description of nuclear families versus joint families. It continues to amaze me how the joint family system thrives in India. The cultural phenomenon has its financial benefits and provides continuity for children to know their grandparents, aunts and uncles. The old saying that it takes a village is certainly true. However being raised in America which has disbanded even the nuclear family (only 70% of children live with two parents), I have grown accustom to a certain amount of autonomy.

I have difficulty accepting that the eldest male makes all of the decisions or that the eldest female is in charge of the kitchen. I am comfortable with shared expenses and ownership of property but I appreciate the strength of marital ties relative to family ties. Unfortunately a family dynamic cannot have a strict succession model like the presidency or the military. Decisions are usually made by one or more parties losing their spirit or will to be understood.

Anecdotally this is often described as “she just went crazy” or “he had some problems.” While this may be the case, I think it is just as often a mindset that rebels against a joint family dynamic. Some people thrive in an environment in which they are told what to do and follow orders. They take comfort in not having responsibility for the outcome. Other people want to lead and will quietly learn until they take the place they feel they rightfully deserve. The majority in my mind are caught in the middle by making decisions and then attributing the outcome to external factors. The other middle ground is only making decisions on small issues and slinking back when decisions get more critical.

Hopefully with time, I can learn to appreciate the advantages of both systems and adapt to the disadvantages of both system.

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