AN ANALYSIS OF CHANGE IN FAMILY COMPOSITION R. D. NAIK Many studies on...
AN ANALYSIS OF CHANGE IN FAMILY COMPOSITION
R. D. NAIK
Many studies on family in India highlight the issue of change in its composition. The
studies use different approaches.
The present analysis uses an approach of comparing family composition at two points of
time. This approach not only minimizes certain limitations of the others, but also enables
one to identify different positions and directions of change in family composition. A low
rate of expansion towards extended families, more or less en-bloc movement towards nuclear
families and a high rate of stability in nuclear families, together, confirm the direction of
change in family composition towards nucleation.
Mr. R. D. Naik is lecturer in Research Methodology, Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
comparisons and conclusive findings, The
second comparison is made between two
Whether as a primary or secondary objec-
sets of empirical evidence. Often, criteria
tive, many studies on family in India high-
used in classification of family types in two
light the issue of change in family patterns studies do not match. In the third com-
or types. By and large, the analysis of parison, the differences in criteria for
family change in different studies is attempt-
classification of households are controlled
ed by comparing (a) existing predominant or checked, as the same researcher classifies
family types with those that existed in the families from different sub-samples, one
ideal past, (b) general patterns observed in from an urban area and the other from a
different empirical studies conducted in rural area. But, the data in such studies are
either urban or rural areas, or (c) family analysed at group-level. One makes obser-
types existing in rural and urban or in two vations like "nuclear families predominate
or more urban parts, under one study plan. in one urban area over those in the other-'
Naik (1978), for instance, has used these or "joint families prevail more in rural
comparisons in one study.
areas than in urban". To arrive at these,
These comparisons do meet either or the researcher looks at independent fre-
both the requirements — points of time and quencies for two urban areas or urban and
places — for observing a change in family. rural areas. One wonders whether the
An appraisal of these comparisons, how-
researcher ascertains differences/ similarities
ever, raises two methodologically signi-
between the areas in which he conducts his
ficant issues: (i) sources and nature of study.
evidence, and (ii) measurement or classifica-
To minimize certain limitations like
tion of families. A brief elaboration would differences in classification, analysis at
show their significance.
group level and latent similarities in two or
In the first kind of comparison, empirical more areas, a change in family composition
evidence, collected at a point of time, is may be studied by collecting data, from
compared with non-empirical qualitative the same respondents, at two points of time
observations, which are recorded in religious — asking them to report the present and
texts or commentaries on them. It is true to recall the past. This kind of comparison
that such use of empirical and non-empirical not only ensures uniform classification of
evidence are, generally, made for developing households but it also enables one to
a researchable issue or for stray compari-
measure change at individual level, in one-
sons. They are not used for comprehensive to-one relation, and sharpen observations
R. D. NAIK
on directions of change in family composi-
tion over a time span.
To show how this kind of comparison (at
wide range of household compositions
two points of time for the same sample) were classified into different types of family.
works, relevant data were compiled from a This classification was based on two
study of jawans (Naik and Ratna, 1976). criteria: (i) completeness of conjugal rela-
In this study, the respondents, 659 tions and (ii) extensions of kin beyond the
released jawans, were asked to give conjugal links. An elaboration would be
information at two points of t i m e . . . . at useful here. The information about family
the time of their release from military composition at the two points of time was
services (past) and at the time of investiga-
gathered from respondents — jawans or
widows of deceased jawans. Neither of the
Family compositions, at the two points of respondents as individuals was used as a
time, are analysed by using a technique of reference point in the classification. The
comparative squeeze. According to this reference point was a couple, first, and,
technique, two sets of data, on the same second, extended links on lineal or lateral
issue, are merged, just as a subtraction pro-
sides or both.
cess in mathematics, to derive three or
These family types are arranged pro-
more positions.... stable families, at the gressively. The serial numbers assigned to
centre, and deviation points on either side each indicate their positions on the pro-
of the stable position, as expanded or gressive order.
divided families. If a family remains
unchanged over a time span, it is called Distributions of Families
stable. If another family adds new 'qualify-
ing' individuals, say daughters-in-law, it
As the distributions, presented in Table-1,
shows a change in terms of expansion and show, at the time of investigation (present)
places itself on one side of the stable nuclear families had formed a single largest
position. The other side of the stable posi-
proportion. Extended or joint families
tion is allocated to a family from which followed the order. Against this, these two
'qualifying' member(s), say married sons, types, nuclear and extended, had an equal
depart, and cause(s) a split or division in it. spread in the past.
1. Non-familial households
Persons who were staying together but did not have
conjugal relations. For instance, a widow /ed father/
mother staying with unmarried children etc.
A couple with or without unmarried children.
3. Nuclear lineal
A nuclear family with one of the widowed parents.
4. Nuclear lateral
A nuclear family with brothers/sisters/cousins,
either unmarried or widowed.
5. Nuclear both
A nuclear lineal and nuclear lateral.
At least two nuclear families of two brothers or
sons, with or without other extended links.
CHANGE IN FAMILY COMPOSITION
. . . . expansion and division . . . . on either
DISTRIBUTION OF FAMILIES AT THE TIME OF side of stable positions, the family types
INVESTIGATION AND AT THE TIME OF RELEASE
were matched at the individual level. The
outcome of this comparative squeeze show-
ed that a considerably large number (48
per cent) of the families had remained
stable over a time span. The incidence of
3. Nuclear lineal
division (37 per cent) was far more
vulnerable than the incidence of change due
5. Nuclear both
to expansion (15 per cent) of the families.
How did these families change? Did they
expand and move to the next successive
higher level or manifest an abrupt change
A comparison of the two distributions by skipping levels? Similarly, how did the
shows that over a period of time the families divided family change their positions on
tended to move towards non-familial the progressive line?
households, or nuclear or nuclear lateral
To measure the levels of change, the
than to be extended or joint ones.
types of families, as mentioned earlier, were
Attention may be drawn to the com-
arranged on a progressive order. Each one
parison and observation based on it. The was assigned numbers in an ascending
comparison of two independent frequencies order. A non-familial type was given num-
appears to be similar to the one made ber 1 and extended the number six. The
between distributions of families in two or levels of expansion were identified by sub-
more urban areas or urban-rural parts. The tracting the numbers assigned to families
increase or decrease in percentages of two at the two points of time. To illustrate, if
family-distributions does help researchers to a non-familial type — No. 1 — changes to
identify points as well as directions of become a nuclear (No. 2), it is said to have
family change. For instance, families seem expanded by one level. If another non-
to change to one or the other nuclear familial type becomes an extended family,
variety. But, this kind of comparison it is said to have expanded by five levels
suppresses different shades of change, does —an abrupt movement. The same pro-
not help one to identify expanded and cedure is adopted to identify the levels of
divided family and is not useful to locate change in the divided families. The levels,
family types which expand and divide.
thus computed, are presented, in Table; 2,
separately for expanded and divided
Directions of Change
families, along with stable families, in
To identify such directions of change percentages.
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF FAMILIES BY LEVELS OF CHANGE IN EXPANDED AND D I V I D E D FAMILIES
Levels of change
o f change 0 1 2 3 4 5 Total
Stable 100.0 — — — — — 317
Expansion — 30.3 25.3 12.1 29.3 3.0 99
Division — 25.9 21.8 11.5 28.4 12.4 243
R. D. NAIK
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF EXPANDED FAMILIES BY T Y P E S AT THE T I M E OF RELEASE (PAST)
AND AT T I M E OF INVESTIGATION (PRESENT)
Family Types at Present
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF D I V I D E D FAMILIES BY T Y P E S IN THE P A S T AND AT PRESENT
Family Types at Present
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF STABLE FAMILIES BY T Y P E S AT PRESENT
CHANGE IN FAMILY COMPOSITION
The trends in change, by levels in the process of death of the older ones or to the
expanded and the divided families are departure of grown-up children to establish
revealing. By and large, families expand or their own households.
divide by either moving to the next or by
The present data do not permit verifica-
skipping, suddenly, by three levels, on the tion of either of the interpretations. It is
higher or lower order, respectively. While however, possible to note the point of time
expansion in the erst-while families takes at which the process of contraction in
place g r a d u a l l y . . . . movement to the next family takes place.
higher position . . . . division leads to abrupt
For this purpose, three shifts (Division,
shifts — by three levels on the lower Stable and Expansion) in the families were
order . . . .in family status.
examined in relation to age of the res-
Further analysis of change in each type pondents at the time of the study. The age-
sharpens these observations on the direc-
groups indicate generation lines, set by
tions of family change. Table-3 and Table-4 intervals of 30 years. The distribution is
show the specific movements in the expand-
given in TabIe-6.
ed and divided families, respectively.
A couple of observations may be high-
lighted distinctly. When families change in PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF FAMILIES BY SHIFTS
the direction of expansion, except non-
IN FAMILY COMPOSITION AND A G E OF THE
familial type, all the types of families
change over to extended families. The non-
familial households move over to the next
higher order i.e. nuclear families. The
divided families, too, tend to show similar
shifts. Except the nuclear type of families,
all other types of families, suddenly, move
back to assume the status of a nuclear
family. The erst-while nuclear families,
however, become non-familial households.
If the trend in change in family composi-
tion, due to division (Table 4) is seen along-
with the trend in the stability of families
(Table 5), one would be inclined to say that,
by and large, families tend to be nuclear,
The distribution, Table 6, suggests that
over a period of time.
families tend to remain stable in the early
In this context, a question may be raised ages, i.e., up-to 30 years of age, thereafter
to know whether the change in family they tend to shrink more than expand. The
composition in the direction of nucleation is marked change in family towards con-
due to the period lapsed between two points traction seems to begin after 30 years and
of time — at the time of release and at that of expansion after 60 years of age.
the time of study. This is probably because
as the time passes the family tends to In Sum
enlarge in its size and kin-links. After a
point of time the same family may become
A change in family can, ideally, be
small or contract in terms of generation measured in longitudinal studies. In the
depth and kin-links due either to the natural absence of such data, it may be studied by
R. D. NAIK
comparing household compositions; of the larger number of families shrink and tend
same sample, at two points of time. An to form a nucleus of limited links. A still
approach of this kind does not only mini-
larger number of families remain stable.
mise certain limitations (differences in Among them more of the nuclear ones tend
classifications, differences/similarities in to retain their erst-while composition. In
geographical areas, inferences drawn from short, (a) the low rate of expansion of
two independent distributions) in the other nuclear families towards extended ones,
kinds of comparisons, but also enables one (b) more or less en-bloc movement of
to identify different positions and specific almost all varieties of families towards
directions of change in family composition. nuclear ones, and (c) a high rate of stability
As seen in this analysis, a comparatively in nuclear families, together, confirm the
small number of families expand. When direction of change in family composition
they expand, families tend to accommodate towards nucleation. The process of shrinking
relatives beyond nuclear links. While non-
of families tends to begin after the age of
familial households become nuclear, the thirty. The expansion in families seems to
nuclear, nuclear lineal and nuclear lateral start late i.e., after 60 yrs. of age.
tend to become joint/extended families. A
Naik, R. D.
Some Structural Aspects of Urban Family, Tata Institute of
Social Sciences, Deonar, Bombay-400 088.
Naik, R. D, and
Rehabilitation of Jawans: Problems and Programmes (mimeo-
The Indian Journal of Social Work, Vol. XLll, No. 1, (April 1981)