Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

East-Indian College Student's Perceptions of Family Strengths

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

East-Indian College Student's Perceptions of Family Strengths

Article excerpt

The concept of "family strengths" is reemerging as a very viable and important topic in the field of Family Science. Otto (1962) introduced the concept, and was a pioneer in researching family strengths. A decade later, Hill (1973) defined family strengths as, "those traits which facilitate the ability of the family to meet the needs of its members and the demands made upon it by systems outside the family unit (p. 3)." Stinnett (1979) has contributed significantly to the area of family strengths, and reported that family strengths are relationship patterns, interpersonal skills and competencies, social and psychological characteristics which create a sense of positive family identity. These qualities promote satisfying and fulfilling relationships between and among family members, and contribute to the family's ability to deal effectively with stress and crises. Stinnett and DeFrain (1985) identified six major strengths of strong American families: commitment, appreciation, communication, time spent together, spiritual wellness, and the ability to cope with crises and stress.

In India, the family is the most important institution that has survived through the ages. India has a documented heritage of stable family life and structure which has been able to withstand the vicissitudes over the centuries (Sinha, 1984). The Indian family, like most families in Oriental cultures, is considered to be strong, well knit, resilient and enduring (Sriram and Verma, 1992). It is, however, important to point out that although families might be strong and resilient, heterogeneity and diversity characterize family life in India. There are regional and cultural variations in family structure and functioning. The norms and values related to family life vary according to religion, caste, social class, and residential patterns (Dhruvarajan, 1989; Sriram and Verma, 1992).

Srivastava (1995) defined the family as a transmission belt for the diffusion of cultural standards to the next generations, as a psychological agent of society, as a shock absorber, and as an institution of many enhancing and valuable qualities. The joint family system has always been an integral part of the Indian culture. Researchers contend that the joint family still exists in all parts of the country. Even the most modern and nuclear family in contemporary times has the deep rooted jointness in various structural and functional aspects (Bhatnagar & Rastogi, 1989). Chekki (1974) argued that despite forces of urbanization and industrialization which have had a significant impact on the traditional Indian family, "the extended kin family system, organically fused within a network of wider kinship relationships composed of primary, secondary, and tertiary kin belonging to different generations still exists (p. 9)."

For the purposes of this paper, the terms "joint family" and "extended family" will be used interchangeably. A joint family includes kinsmen, and generally embraces three to four living generations. It is a group composed of a number of family units living in separate rooms of the same house. These members eat the food cooked at one hearth, share a common income, and common property and are related to one another through kinship ties, i.e., a father and his sons or grandsons, or a set of brothers with their sons and grandsons (Gupta, 1974; Sethi, 1989). Much of the research literature dealing with family life in India recognizes that the joint family is considered to be an ideal type of family and that most Indians, at some point in their lives, participated in joint family living (Nandan & Eames, 1980). In the last few decades, some researchers have specified that the traditional joint family has "disintegrated" due to forces of urbanization and modernization (Conklin, 1988; Dhruvarajan, 1988; Khatri, 1988; and Ramu, 1977). Other researchers (Chekki, 1974; Litwak, 1960) argued that irf India, the nuclear family is strongly embedded in the extended kinship matrix. …

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