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The Future of Nuclear Family – The Need to Rethink the “Family”

The Future of Nuclear Family – The Need to Rethink the “Family”
The traditional nuclear family is disintegrating, what is next?Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures

The family, especially the nuclear family is the foundational social organization upon which every other institution thrives and survives. We have come to understand and expect of the family in terms of the larger social function it performs; it is the seat of comfort and growth, individual development and internalization of social and religious morals and values. The institution of the family has been understood to be inevitably an important part in modern societies. However in recent times the very structure of the nuclear family, as the two parent headed household with their children, has been waning and changing forms with change in lifestyles and individual choices. Will the traditional nuclear family survive? What is the future of the nuclear family?

There is a direct and intimate relationship between the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century and the emergence of the nuclear family as we now recognize it. It was the nuclear family that comprised of the father, the mother and their children as a social unit, which provided the early industries with its necessary work force and the required moral, economic and political culture. This particular kind of family form has since then has had very significant role to play in the social and even political imagination adding on to what we understand to be culture. Families became the legal body for the transfer of private properties, laws of inheritance, and child protection and care.

Today, with the kind of lifestyle choices embraced by a vast number of people, the traditional notion of the nuclear family is disintegrating. With a large number of young people choosing to live alone, and with single parent and same-sex couples families on the increase, we face the need to re-define what we understand to be families.

Most democracies today not only recognize the family as an important social institution providing legal guidelines and protection to the members involved but also political parties take special care in catering to the perceived notion of the family unit taking much precaution not to offend its structure. The traditional nuclear families became associated with being the representatives of tradition and ‘values’, moral and religious integrity. As a result its structure became more restrictive, rigid and conservative where individual choices came to be in conflict with it.

Today, with the kind of lifestyle choices embraced by a vast number of people, the traditional notion of the nuclear family is disintegrating. With a large number of young people choosing to live alone, and with single parent and same-sex couples families on the increase, we face the need to re-define what we understand to be families. In the United States the percentage of children living in single parent household, headed majorly by women, is over 30%. The numbers have drastically gone up since the 1990s. In the United Kingdom the number is close to 26% and in Canada it is around 24%. However this pattern is not particular to western industrial countries alone.

If family is a social unit that is supposed to have some vital social functions to perform for each individual member, it does not necessarily has to be in a prescribed structure. Any social group that provides the necessary security, comfort and growth to those that are a part of it, can be termed as a family.

There has been a rise in single parent households in Asian and Latin American societies too, where people are disregarding the moral values attached to traditional families in heading a family on their own. Then there is an increase of people, often friends, who decide to live together as families instead of being involved in a heterosexual or homosexual relationship. The families headed by same-sex couples, unmarried couples, open marriages are all on the increase that is putting the traditional family unit in disarray.

What these unconventional families are doing is making a radical point: to rethink what we understand to be a family itself. The earlier and more conventional notions of the family as a social organization based on sex or blood relation is being rapidly displaced. Current attitudes to the same are challenging the notion that the life outside of this rigid family structure is no life at all. They critique the cultural ethos of the beautiful house with white fences myth as the ideal to strive for happiness and success in life.

If family is a social unit that is supposed to have some vital social functions to perform for each individual member, it does not necessarily has to be in a prescribed structure. Any social group that provides the necessary security, comfort and growth to those that are a part of it, can be termed as a family. In other words, these new emerging kinds of “families” are radically opposing and changing the conventional, conservative notions that families are formed on the basis of heterosexual and blood relations alone.

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