AN ANALYSIS OF A CHANGE IN FAMILY ECONOMY R. D. NAIK A change in...
AN ANALYSIS OF A CHANGE IN FAMILY ECONOMY
R. D. NAIK
A change in family, in India, is often analysed in terms of its composition i.e., generation
depth and width of kin-links. This article highlights the issue of change in terms of types
of economy existing in urban households.
The analysis shows that in about sixteen per cent families the traditional system of
joint economy prevailed. The presence of an earner in urban households seems to bring about
a change in family economy from joint to contributory one. An earner seems to exercise
a right over his income and part with only a portion.
Mr. R. D. Naik is Lecturer in Research Methodology. Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
tion within or functional process of family,
on the other. By looking at its two separate
1. Aspects of Family Change
aspects, those who disapprove of family
change, in general, hold a view that family,
In economically developed countries, in India, may be changing structurally. A
nuclear family has become a norm. Some split in family may be leading to two or
of the nuclear units consist a couple and more separate family establishments. But, at
dependent children. Some others have a the same time, they subscribe a view
couple only. Increased rate of divorce has that the structurally separated units
forced some to have individual-based unit remain integrated functionally. Kins, who
of living, a unit which cannot further disinte-
depart and form another nucleus, maintain
grate or has reached a 'zero-point' of divi-
their links by reviving contacts with their
sion. On the other hand, family, in develop-
natal families (Desai, 1955).
ing countries like India, is still a conspicu-
In these three positions — formation of
ous unit. It has, minimally, a couple and nuclear units, limited change, continuation
unmarried dependent as well as earning of contacts between natal and separated
children staying with their parents. A sizea-
units, — there is one common aspect of
ble number of families accommodate extend-
change. The change in family is seen in
ed kins, too.
terms of a shift from one status/composi-
Sociologists, nevertheless, do see the tion to another — from a joint to a smaller
Indian family changing. The natural course nuclear composition. This suggests, there-
or the cyclical process of change in family fore, that if the family changes it changes
does not attract them so much as the change structurally and only the structural change
attributed to invading urban-industrial needs to be accounted to highlight the
values. Accordingly, some sociologists see, phenomenon of family change.
in India, in general, and in urban areas, in
particular, small, nuclear families predominat-
This raises a couple of questions. Does
ing (Orenstein, 1961). Some find a "limited" this kind of structural change in family
change in family (Gore, 1968:232). Some occur abruptly? Do urban-industrial values
others, at another extreme, observe a contrary intrude family suddenly and cause a split in
evidence to show that family is not chang-
family immediately? How would the invad-
ing (Singer, 1970). Among them, some dis-
ing urban-industrial values initiate a change
sect family unit in terms of its composition in family? :
of structure, on the one hand, and interac-
A critical observer would see a family as
R. D. NAIK
composed of individuals who are tied to-
family, decision making on family matters,
gether by either or both conjugal and con-
etc. In the case of role performance of
sanguinal links. Underneath these manifest members one may identify issues like share
ties, he would notice latent links like sense in day-to-day family affairs, share in family
of obligations to each other, feelings of joint-
economy, etc. While all such issues are
ness or interdependence or, say, familism. worth investigating, the present analysis con-
The external invasions of urban industrial fines itself to the issue of earner's share in
values first shatter the latent links and, then, family economy.
break the manifest ties. To identify stages
of family change, one would say that change 3. An Approach
family (change in latent ties)
which leads gradually to change of
Taking the last issue — share in family
(breaking of manifest links).
economy — one may indicate as to how a
change in this functional area of family may
2. An Aspect of Functional Change
be measured. An appropriate way to high-
light this change is to investigate into the
In many studies on family change, in issue over a period of time. Another way,
India, the latter aspect of change — change in the absence of longitudinal empirical
family — is sought to be studied. Studies data, would be to cite past ideal pattern of
aim at finding variations in proportions of family economy, and compare it with the
family types in two or more urban areas present.
or urban and rural areas. As a matter of
One of the characteristic features of the
fact researchers should, primarily, seek a traditional family system was the nature of
family. A feeling of inde-
its economy. In the early agrarian society,
pendence or a rise of individual identity and even for some time later, family mem-
need, first of all, be seen replacing a sense bers had common occupations or common
of obligation and feelings of inter-depen-
sources of income. Even in those families,
dence. Accordingly, if the phenomenon of where members had different occupations,
family change is reduced to attitudes, per-
all the family members pooled their earnings
ceptions of roles and individual indentity, together. The person in authority had a
one would see a change in terms of accep-
control over it. He was responsible for the
tance of nuclear family norms while the maintenance of family as a whole and had
structure of joint family still continues (Gore; powers to allocate funds under different ex-
penditure heads, and to individual members,
What are, then, the functional aspects of as well.
family? How does one go about measuring
change in those functional areas? Broadly 4. The Source of Data
speaking, functional aspects of family may
be classified into two categories — those
To compare this pattern of family
indicating interaction between family mem-
economy with the present, relevant data
bers and those pertaining to individual's have been drawn from a study of "Problems
role performance. To further operationalize of Retired People in Greater Bombay"
the area of interaction one may list such (Desai and Naik, 1971). A sample of 600
aspects as conversations/discussions in retirees was asked a question to find out.
AN ANALYSIS OF A CHANGE IN FAMILY ECONOMY
as to how they maintained their families.
The question was:
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF THE R E T I R E E S W H O
REPORTED D I F F E R E N T M O D E S OF FAMILY
1. Can you adequately support yourself,
your wife/husband, dependent chil-
dren and other dependents, if any, on
your present monthly income?
2. If no, how do you manage to meet the
Withdraw from savings (p.m.)
Assistance from others (Specify the
relationship and the amount of con-
Nearly fifty per cent of the retirees report-
tribution received from them per ed that they maintained their families either
on their own income or by withdrawing
from savings or borrowing from some one.
It may be noted here that the question Among the rest, in only 16 per cent families
was not intended to study the nature of family expenses were met jointly.
family economy among the retirees. This variety of modes yields three diffe-
What is, therefore, presented below is not rent types of family economy. The first
likely to be a definitive statement about mode, jointly, seems to be identical to the
evidence of change in family. The analysis traditional system of pooled-income or joint
and discussion on this aspect of functional economy. The last two modes — 5th and
change may, at the most, be useful for 6th — suggest a kind of self-managed eco-
developing a researchable issue.
nomy. Categories 2, 3 and 4 bring out a
type of economy in which other relatives
lend assistance to the retiree in meeting
family financial responsibility. This kind of
The responses to the question were analys-
economy may be called here as 'Contribu-
ed to highlight two aspects of family eco-
tory Economy'.* The types and their
nomy. They are; type of economy and recurrence is presented in Table-2.
nature and extent of contribution received
for maintaining family.
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF D I F F E R E N T T Y P E S
1. Types of Economy
OF FAMILY ECONOMY
To begin with, it would be useful to see
Type of Economy
as to how the retirees were managing to Joint
meet their family expenses. The retirees Contributory
reported six modes of maintaining their Self-managed
families. Table-1 gives their recurrence.
*A point may be noted here that the differences in the categories and the types of economy
are due to the differences in the responses to the above mentioned question alone.
R. D. NAIK
This distribution suggests that the tradi-
Two observations may be noted. One, so
tional system of 'common family fund' long as a household does not have any
exists in 16 per cent of the households of other earner, it manages on its own income.
the retirees. The rest show a shift away from Some of these households receive contribu-
this traditional system of family economy.
tion from other relatives who are residing
From the point of view of methodology, elsewhere. The second and more significant
a critical observer may say that since the observation is that the presence of an earner
question was not, originally, intended to
identify family economies, the respondents
failed to report distinctly the types of eco-
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLDS BY
nomy they had. The wording of the question
THEIR COMPOSITION AND TYPES OF ECONOMY
clearly required the retirees (a) to identify
Types of Economy
themselves and their own dependents and
differentiate them from the other earners,
and (b) to say whether they can support
such a group, within their families, with
their own present income.
Once the question
is so understood, particularly keeping in
mind the italicised specifications, one
would say that the retirees are less likely
to report types of family economy as such.
There is another side to the question
itself. Since the question was not pointed
towards types of economy in their families,
it did not allow the respondents to 'arti-
culate' their thoughts and report something
which did not exist in reality. Thus, when in a household does not necessarily help it
the respondents came out with certain res-
to have a common purse or a joint fund.
ponses like 'joint' or "pooled income" their On the contrary, the presence of an earner
responses could be treated as spontaneous in an urban household seems to change its
economy from an age-old joint fund system
In this background, having information to a contributory economy. An earner does
about earners in the households one could not merge his income into a common pool,
ask: what would happen if the above trend but exercises his right over it, parts with a
in family economy is seen in relation to the portion and retains the rest with him. What
presence or absence of earners in the house-
seems to be more striking is the prevalence
holds? To seek an answer to this question, of a 'self-managed economy' in those house-
composition of the households was classifi-
holds where there is an additional earner
ed into three groups — one, households in present. In these households with a 'self-
which respondents were alone or were with managed economy' the additional earner
spouse only; two, households where there does not contribute to the household budget.
were non-earning members also; and three,
How do the types of economy vary with
households in which there were earners as the variation in the marital status of the
well. The types of economy were cross-read earners in the families? It is often said that
with these compositions. Table-3 gives their a marriage in an extended or joint family
makes it a juxtaposed unit of two or more
AN ANALYSIS OF A CHANGE IN FAMILY ECONOMY
couples, in which each couple attends to reported to be receiving assistance from rela-
demands/needs of its nucleus more often tives other than their own children. Second,
than of those of all others. As a result, this group consisted of nephews, nieces and
households with married earners are more siblings too. Generally speaking, they are
likely to have a contributory economy not as close as children. Moreover, it is not
than those households having unmarried as obligatory to them as to the children
to pool income or contribute to family
But it seems that the marital status of the maintenance. They may, however, make
earners in urban households does not make contributions on some other grounds.
much difference in the household economy
The assistance received from the children
pattern. Both unmarried and married ear-
also showed variations. Some of them
ners seem to favour contributory economy received a specific amount per month and
almost equally. Although there were some others received 'whatever required' amount.
differences, those were not significant The specific amount of contribution varied,
too. To make the variations in contribution
comparable the amount of contribution was
converted into the per cent of contribu-
tion to the total income of the earners in
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF FAMILIES BY MARITAL
STATUS OF EARNERS AND T Y P E S OF ECONOMY
households. In this process, an additional
response category emerged because of inade-
quate reporting of either the amount of
contribution or family income. This cate-
gory is named here as 'not-calculable' con-
The distribution of respondents over two
broad categories — specific contribution and
whatever required — in relation to the
marital status of the earning children is pre-
sented in Table-5.
A further probe into the nature and extent
of contribution to family maintenance would PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLDS WITH
be useful to sharpen the phenomenon of CONTRIBUTORY ECONOMY, BY BROAD CATEGORIES OF
CONTRIBUTION AND MARITAL STATUS OF EARNER-
the contributory family economy.
2. The Contribution
As seen earlier, the retirees were receiving
contribution from two sources — their earn-
ing children and other relatives. The follow-
ing analysis of the nature and extent of con-
tribution focuses attention on the former
group — earning children. The second group
— other relatives — is excluded for two rea-
sons. First, the other relatives formed a
very small group. Only 18 respondents had
R. D. NAIK
The distribution, in Table-5, reveals that
as long as earning children in a household
are unmarried they tend to contribute speci-
Very often a change in family is said to
fic amount towards family maintenance per take place only when there is a shift in its
month. Once they get married they give composition — joint family is said to shrink
'whatever required' amount for maintaining and become a nuclear one. Some observa-
families. The differences are significant tions like 'limited' change in family and
functional relations maintained by two sepa-
The 'whatever required' amount of con-
rated units directly or indirectly focus on
tribution attracts attention. Does this mean functional aspects of family change.
that married earners, than unmarried ear-
Sociologists also claim that if two separat-
ners, are more helpful as they seem to be ed units revive their contacts, the separated
prepared to spare any amount as-and-when units may be regarded as having "Joint
required, rather than a specific amount per household".
If functional relations — revival of con-
Further analysis of the specific amount tacts— make two separated units a single
of contribution by unmarried and married integrated joint unit, strained functional
earning children sharpens the trend in the relations within a household are equally
likely to make it a disintegrated or juxta-
posed unit. When members of a residen-
T A B L E 6
tially joint unit cherish independence by
way of exercising right over their own in-
PERCENTAGE DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLDS BY THE
PROPORTIONS OF CONTRIBUTION RECEIVED FROM come or not conforming to the past system
UNMARRIED AND MARRIED EARNING CHILDREN
of pooling all income, the household can-
Percentage of contribution
not claim to be a well-knit unit. It is said
to have disintegrated: smaller units in a
50 per cent 50 per cent
The present analysis of economy in urban
households brings out this kind of functional
disintegration, in general, and a change in
family economy, in particular. The data
shows that earning members, whether marri-
ed or unmarried tend to part only with a
portion of their income. While married earn-
ing children contribute a required amount,
unmarried ones give a specific amount of
X2 = 1.5778, p less than 0.20, d.f. = 1.
It should be made clear again that the
foregoing observations are not conclusive for
The difference in percentages indicate that two reasons. One, this analysis was based on
unmarried earning children contribute more the responses to a question which was not
than the married. But since these differen-
intended to identify types of family eco-
ces are not significant statistically, one nomy in the households of the retired per-
would be inclined to say that contribution sons. Second, the analysis is limited by the
to the family income is not related to the fact that it deals with families of the retirees
marital status of the children.
and not with families where the symbolic
AN ANALYSIS OF A CHANGE IN FAMILY ECONOMY
head is also the actual head in terms of ed if it stimulates thinking and research in
the direction of measuring change in diffe-
The functional aspects of family change rent functional aspects of family, rather
and family economy have to be measured
more rigorously in an independent study. than identifying structural shifts in family
The purpose of this analysis would be serv-
Desai, I. P.
"An Analysis: Symposium: Caste and Joint Family", Sociologi-
Desai, K. G. and
Problems of Retired People in Greater Bombay,
Naik, R. D.
of Social Sciences, Bombay.
Gore, M. S.
Urbanization and Family Change,
Popular Prakashan, Bombay.
"The Recent History of the Extended Family", Social Problems
Vol. 8, Spring.
The Indian Joint Family in Modern Industry
: Its Structure and
Change in Indian Society,
in Singer M. and Cohn B.S. (Eds).
Aldine Publishing Co., Chicago.