A family structure forms a base for the social setup and is a pivotal part of every society and its norms. Family is defined as “the collective body of persons who live together under one head and a household which includes parents, children and grand children.”
The Census Bureau defines a family household as “group of people living together in one housing unit owned by the householder and one or more people related by blood, marriage, or adoption.” The family structures in various societies may vary in terms life styles, values, and social norms but all in all the family structures prevalent in all societies are more or less the same.
Social Norms Followed in all types of Societies:
In spite of all the disparities in different societies, all family units follow the same ensuing social norms such as:
Tradition of marriage to normalize gender behavior.
Accepting the responsibility of giving birth to children and follow with the responsibility to nurture, protect, and support their children emotionally.
Cultivating moral values in the children by keeping the traditions alive
Taking up the financial responsibility by the family members collectively
Maintain the culture, ethnicity, and wealth inherited from the ancestors
Family Structure can be broadly divided into four categories:
Traditional Family Setup: These types of families are strongly knitted and maintained by a married couple and all the different generations of one family stay together in this type of family setup. Traditional family structure generally includes mother, father, children, grandparents, and extended family also referred to as joint family structure.
Nuclear Family Setup: These types of families are considerably small and consist of a married couple and their children. This type of family structure is available in all societies, although the living style and culture the nuclear families may adopt vary even in the same society.
Multigenerational Family Setup: These types of families generally include three or more generation living together in the same household. Multigenerational family structures are becoming increasingly popular nowadays due the increasing inflation and cost of living.
Other Family Setups: Families run by a single parent, or dysfunctional families come under this category. In these families, siblings are sharing a home or a number of people related are staying together not necessarily belonging to the same family structure.
Major Benefits of Different Family Structures
Joint Family Benefits
Joint family structures promote unity, bonding, attachment, and relationship.
Joint family offer social, economic, & moral support to persons living in it.
Joint family help in keeping up the cultural and traditional inheritance.
Warmth, affection, kindness, love, care, concern are more in joint families.
Joint families preserve towering societal status and extend it to next level.
Responsibility and accountability is more in the case of joint family setup.
Nuclear Family Benefits
Nuclear family gives the authority to sway over family and own life.
Nuclear family offers higher independence and privacy.
Nuclear family has less financial responsibilities.
Nuclear family structures alleviate disputes and ego issues.
The cost of living is lesser in case of nuclear families.
Accountability is lesser in case of nuclear families.
Multigenerational Family Benefits
Members of multiple generations offer a unique support to each other
Children get to know about their grand and great grand parents and relatives.
Committed family members provide care to each other in difficult times.
Multigenerational Family facilities also save tax paying liabilities.
Major Drawbacks of Different Family Structures
Joint Family Drawbacks
Some egocentric and selfish people can cause conflict in joint families.
Big accommodations are required to fit all the members of the family.
Cost of living and overall expenditure is higher in joint families.
Privacy issues can crop up in case of joint families as the number of members is more.
Nuclear Family Drawbacks
Social and family responsibilities are higher in nuclear families.
Loneliness and insecurity is a problem in case of nuclear families.
Lack moral support towards children and senior members of the family.
Lack of cultural inheritance to the new generation as per the traditions of the family.
Children remain underprivileged of love of grandparents, uncles and aunts and cousins in the family.
Multigenerational Family Drawbacks
Certain people are hardly ever prepared to give care to the children and older relatives.
In a number of associate arrangements of multigenerational families, householders are worried about food shelter and medical needs.
The daily demands of raising children and caring about the elderly member may create tension in the atmosphere.
Multigenerational families are beyond the barriers of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.
Changes in American Families
In 1950s, the traditional family setup was more common in United States but with time the trend of nuclear families became popular. According to statistics, by 2000 the number of traditional family structure reduced to 10%. Lot of factors caused the breakdown of the traditional joint family structures, some of them were economic drifts, liberal government policies, inexpensive financial schemes, etc. Nuclear families became more existent because of the changing lifestyles and economic strata.
The change was slow and gradual, it started happening in the 1960s and 1970s with the increasing inflation causing it difficult for people to manage household with limited income. The women of the family who normally handled the home duties moved out to do jobs; this brought the first change in the traditional structure of joint families. Doing job and becoming financially independent made women more powerful which definitely led to a big change in the cultural norms of joint families.
With women taking up the financial responsibilities, the rift in relationships increased resulting in higher number divorces. The divorce rate accelerated at huge pace which automatically changed the dynamism of family structures. The equality of responsibilities between both the parents started to take place and the members started moving out to make nuclear families.
Further, vanishing affluence percentage also resulted in smaller families. The ratio of married couples with children also turn down and proportion of single women giving birth to children is ever-increasing. According to the reports of Census Bureau, many unmarried couples stay together in a living relationship without getting married which is referred to as cohabitation. Another type of family is based on open adoption, where all the terms of adoption of child and adoptive parents are stated legally led to new family setups.
Finally, social economic and scientific influences brought a huge change in the family life. It is more probable that New American Family will transform quickly during 21st century. Education about the different family structures can help out in discovering ingenious and flexible alternate for raising children and maintaining strong relationships with completion.