Essay on the Merits and Demerits of Joint Family – The joint family claims certain merits and suffers from certain defects. Some of them may be mentioned here.
Merits of Joint Family
(i) Stable and Durable:
The joint family is more stable and durable-than the single unit family or the nuclear family. Individuals may come and go but the family as a unit stands. It contributes much to the continuation of the cultural tradition.
(ii) Ensures Economic Progress:
The joint family meets the basic needs of its members-food, clothing and shelter-a first condition of economic progress.
Further, it provides larger labour force especially for the agricultural communities. It prevents the sub-divisions and fragmentation of land-holdings and helps scientific farming.
(iii) Ensures Economy of Expenditure:
Savings are possible here since the household purchases are done jointly. No single member has an absolute right in family property. Everyone is bound to become spendthrift. The head of the family does not permit the members to become extravagant.
(iv) Secures the Advantage of Division of Labour:
Here the work is distributed among the members on the basis of age and sex. Members co-operate with one another since they hold the property in common. Especially for agricultural tasks, the joint family is better fitted. As KM. Kapadia has pointed out: “The Indian farmer used to be producer, seller, labourer and investor combined. Each of these functions can be performed efficiently to the advantage of the family if it is a joint one.”
(v) Serves as a Social Insurance Company:
For the people such as orphans, widows, the deserted, divorced, separated and the neglected, the joint family serves as a social insurance company. It gives them food, shelter and protection.
(vi) Provides. Social Security:
The joint family gives social security to the weak, aged, sick, I infirm, the unabled, the disabled and such other needy persons. An individual’s life from cradle to f cremation is looked after by the joint family. In times of accidents, crises and emergencies, one can rely on one’s joint family for the needed help.
(vii) Provides Leisure:
Since the work is shared by all the members on the basis of age, sex and experience, they get more leisure time. More hands at home can finish off the work with minimum I time and provide enough leisure to the members to relax. Here women are the main beneficiaries of ‘ leisure.
(viii) Provides Recreation Also:
The joint family is an ideal place of recreation for all the members. Childish play between the two aged and the little babies, the funny talks of the old, the broken language of the younger ones, the expression of sisterly, brotherly and motherly love.
(ix) Helps Social Control:
The joint family by exercising control over the behaviour of its members acts as an agency of social control. The individuals are taught to subordinate their individual interests to the group interests.
(x) Provides Psychological Security:
The joint family provides psychological security to its members. By creating a harmonious atmosphere in the family, it contributes to the development of social solidarity. It prevents the growth of excessive individuation inside the family.
(xi) Promotes Co-operative Virtues:
Joint family is said to be the breeding ground of love, self- help, co-operation, tolerance, discipline, loyalty, generosity, sacrifice, service-mindedness and obedience and such other virtues of life.
It instils the socialistic spirit among the members. “Work according to one’s ability and obtain according to one’s needs”, and “all for one and one for air—are said to be the mottos of a joint family.
Demerits of Joint Family:
(i) Retards the Development of Personality:
The joint family does not provide enough scope for the members to develop qualities of adventure, self-determination, industriousness, etc. The elder ones take up too many responsibilities and the younger ones are overprotected.
(ii) Damages Individual Initiative and Enterprise:
The joint family does not provide proper opportunities for the members to develop their talents. Any new enterprise or adventure on the part of the young people is discouraged by the head of the family. This adversely affects the individuality, originality and creativity of the young members.
(iii) Narrows down Loyalties:
Joint family makes the members to develop narrow-mindedness. It is said that a member is more likely to develop a sense of loyalty to the family rather than to the larger society. These family units develop strong opposite principles which result in disintegration and division within the society at large.
(iv) Promotes Idleness:
The joint family is said to be the home of idlers and drones. Since all the members are assured of their basic necessities of life, no one takes much interest in the productive activities. Further, all the relatives may flock to the joint family with their idle habits and may become life-long parasites.
(v) Not Favourable for saving and Investment:
The need for saving does not arise here because all are assured of their basic needs. There is no inspiration for the accumulation of capital and investment. Saving is not possible also for one has to share one’s income with the large family.
(vi) The Centre of Quarrels:
The joint family is said to be the hotbed of quarrels and bickerings especially among the womenfolk. Since women come to the family (after the marriage) from diverse socio-economic and religious backgrounds, they may find it difficult to adjust themselves properly. Quarrels very often take place between the elder and the younger members of the family.
(vii) Denies Privacy:
Since the joint family is always overcrowded, privacy is denied to the newly wedded couple. They cannot express openly their love and affection for the invariable presence of other members causes embarrassment for them. They rarely get opportunity to talk about their personal matters. Hence they fail to develop intimacy.
(viii) Affects Socialisation of Children:
Due to the lack of intimacy and privacy between the husband and wife, the socialisation of children is affected very badly. The parents cannot always give personal attention to the upbringing of their children. The children become more attached to their grandparents and often they pick up the idle habits and age-old ideas.
(ix) Undermines the Status of Women:
In patriarchal joint families, women have only secondary role. They are not given sufficient freedom to express and to develop their personality. Their inner feelings are never recognised. They are made to work like servants. Women are treated as nonentities here. They can hardly resist their elders even for just causes because obedience is enforced upon them. In such families sons are preferred to the daughters.
(x) Encourages Litigation:
The joint family encourages litigation. Normally disputes over the common property crop up at the time of partition. Such disputes are taken to the courts which are dragged on for years leading to the waste of time, energy, money and more than that, loss of mental peace.
(xi) Favours Uncontrolled Reproduction:
The joint family is found to be associated with higher birth rate. Members do not feel the need to adopt birth-control measures. Since the joint family takes up directly the responsibility of feeding, rearing and educating the children, the married members do not experience the urgency and necessity of restricting the number of issues.
(xii) Limits Social Mobility:
The joint family is said to be more conservative in nature. Since it is dominated by tradition, it is slow to respond to the modern trends. It does not encourage its members to go after change. Members are more concerned with safeguarding their statuses rather than with changing them. Hence social mobility is very much limited here.
(xiii) Encourages Nepotism:
Some are of the opinion that the joint family system is the root cause of nepotism and discrimination. It is said that the public servants and officials belonging to one or the other family are more likely to favour their own kith and kin on public issues or in matters of providing job even at the cost of merit.