Joint family tradition

Joint family tradition is as old as the human society. Primitive society was clan based. Later the clans were split in convenient sized joint family consisiting of grand father, sons and grand sons. As the family grew larger, this split in smaller manageable joint family. Such family had often common business, agriculture or other venture. Father and sons, Brothers of the same joint family were partners in the business enterprise. They shared business and domestic responsibility both. Joint family had inbuilt social security and management of family affairs including upbringing and educating children was very convenient. All family disputes were solved by mutual consultation and intervention of elders. The system of large joint families living and working together gave rise to the concept of Hindu United family or HUF, which is considered as a distinct entity. 

Split of joint family into nuclear family units  

Industrial revolution in the last two centuries led to disintegration of joint family. Agriculture and local village industry no more sufficed to sustain increasing numbers. So there was large scale exodus from village to cities for job in factories. Many went for job in various commercial units in cities. This naturally split the large joint families. Members of such families lived in cities along with nuclear family of wife and children. However, joint family concept is still alive in shape of gathering on social events like marriage and death.

Shortcomings of joint family

Joint families provided inbuilt social security as the aged and children were jointly cared by all. Children were well looked after. The institution of joint family failed because this did not suit the new developments. The drawbacks of the joint family are:

  1. There is very little or no scope for individual initiative or innovation. All members of joint family are tied to the family enterprise. Industrial development provided more scope in factories, banks, insurance and other sectors. Computer has also added to employment opportunity. So, people began moving to cities for training and employment.
  2. Joint family is best organized when all or most family members are localized at a place and involve themselves in family enterprise. Employment in various locations in factories and other establishments causes geographical dispersal of population leading to break up of the joint family. Thus joint family does not suit the changed economic environment.
  3. As members of joint family are employed in different sectors and all have different abilities, there is no uniformity in income and living standard. Joint family system requires the more fortunate to sacrifice for the less fortunate. This curtails initiative of the more energetic and progressive and dampens their spirit. The lesser earning brothers get lethargic as they hope to get help from the richer higher earning brothers.
  4. The poorer members of the joint family are jealous of the richer. The richer have no initiative to earn more in they have to sacrifice for the less unfortunate. If they reside in same building and work in same city, there is more jealousy. The poor brothers's wife and children are jealous and the richer brothers and their wives/ children are reluctant to sacrifice unreasonably for the less fortunate members and their wives/ children. This creates ill will in the family.      
  5. There is less privacy in joint family. The husband and wife feel it difficult even to talk to each other in presence of elders. This is a big hinderance to enjoy comjugal bliss. One cannot even go for picnic with his wife and children only. Brothers' familiues will also expect to accompany.
  6. Contrast nuclear family with the joint. In a nuclear family, a husband and wife are at greater liberty to interact. They enjoy life better whereas in a joint family they live a regimented life. Joint family suits the more lethargic and least enterprising. 


Although nuclear family has the advantages of more privacy and suits the more enterprising and higher earning members of the family, Joint family has also some merits. It is okay to maintain nuclear family and live independently but there should be better communication and redress of all genuine problems of the larger joint family. If there are minor brothers still getting education, they should be helped financially even from distance. Even if living separately as nuclear family, one should visit his parents, brothers and their wives etc and also invite them for brief spells. The too much closeness of joint family and too much distance of nuclear family- both need be bridged and a happy balance attained so as to get best of both. 

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