One of the cherished values and practices in India is that the younger generation used to take care of their elders in old age. This practice is very old and over the time there are a lot of changes due to various factors such as globalisation, urbanisation, among others. In search of employment opportunities and other basic amenities, people have to migrate to big cities and re-establish themselves in a whole new environment and eventually leave their home as an ‘empty nest’.
Due to inflation, people have to adjust with the minimal available resources and manage to survive in the new environment. So the responsibilities of the elder generation go into doubt and older people have to live on their own. Ageing brings its own functional limitations and this is the stage where the need of a caregiver arises. There is a drastic shift due to these factors and it has impacted on the caregiving responsibilities of the caregivers and also created the requirement to develop a well-established formal support system.
Factors responsible for shift from Joint to nuclear family structure
Earlier, the Indian society was precisely defined by its joint family pattern which was unique all over the world, but today the earlier system is replaced by the nuclear family pattern leading to more individualism. Many factors like urbanisation and education have caused more nuclearisation and brought changes in the Indian family system.
Industrialisation and urbanisation
With the emergence of British rule in India, the process of industrialisation started which led to noticeable changes in the social and economic system of the country. The industrialisation led to urbanisation and also can be counted for the breakage of the joint families system in the country. The rural population has to migrate to the urban areas in search for employment and other opportunities of better standard of living. After migration, the rural population has to re-establish themselves as individual nuclear family units.
Consequently, the joint family system emerged as a product of agrarian society. Majority of people depended on agriculture as well as agro-based industries. But the production of the commodities by the village artisans and craftsmen could not stand the competition brought about by the price and quality of goods produced in the factories. Additionally, over-population has caused excessive pressure on the available agricultural and residential land. Agriculture no longer provides employment to the ever-increasing number of people depending on it. The poor and the unemployed desert their homes in search of employment elsewhere, moving away from their families.
Education and enlightenment of women
Education is another factor in the changing nature of families in India. Education has brought many changes in attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, and ideologies of the both genders and now they are more focused towards their successful careers. The education factor supported the nuclear family system through enlightenment of women who now shifted towards better employment and career choices. Now, women are more independent and enjoy work in equality. Along with other factors, Westernisation also impacted us to be more individualistic and liberal.
Change in marriage system
Another factor which affected the joint family system is the change in marriage system. Families now also provide liberty to choose their partners which initially was decided by the head of the family. People are less subject to parental control and other social obligations related to when to marry and start a new phase of their life. Young couples themselves plan and decide how to live their lives by focusing on their careers. On the other hand, families also understand the challenges between personal and work life along with maintaining the overall harmony in life.
The breakage of joint family pattern was the result of miscellaneous impact of Westernisation, industrialisation, changing scenario of education and equality among men and women etc. This shift from joint to nuclear family pattern was beneficial for individualism but raised difficulty in taking care of the elderly population.
In India, a major proportion of the family caregivers are responsible for the long-term care of the elderly population. In the context of our country, family members used to provide assistance and fulfill the needs of the elderly by devoting the majority of their time and energy. Researchers also suggested that while trying to balance between the caregiving process and other household responsibilities, family caregivers experienced an immense burden of stress which ultimately, affects their health and well-being. Therefore, a well-developed formal social support system is needed to help out the families who are granting care and assistance to their elderly members and eventually will support the health and well-being of the family caregivers.
Parul Kalia, PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Baroda in India.