Compare and contrast families
1. What issues confront families in both countries?
A family is a group of loved ones, bound by time and common experience, and sometimes, it is a legal and biological construct, meant to draw the line between our “official” and “unofficial” relationships. Most of have our own definition of what a family is, even though it is usually based on the same principles. In some ways, however, these definitions are changing. Still, it is the most important social group a person belongs to from very early stage in life. It is a group that is formed as a result of several social economic factors surrounding it for instance, living, culture, societal values, standard of living, and mobility from one social class to another and so on. Elaborating on this; a discussion on issues faced by British and Indian families is preceded:
Issues Faced By British Families: First and foremost, the concept of a family unit has evolved much over a period of time. Now, “single-parent family”, “recomposed family”, “de facto unions” or even “homosexual family” can be seen very frequently. Couples prefer to cohabit for year before actually marrying. This has been result of deviation from original family-oriented European and Christian values. Opposition of modernism also claim main reason of this is promotion of secularism or anti-religious values As a result of cohabitation, the number of children born outside of marriage is rising constantly. Similarly, in de-facto and homosexual marriages, children are being born without any emotional bonding or unity of both parents, thus, violating the core of family, marriage. Children born and bought up in such circumstances are realize at one point or another that their family unit is not as strong and bonded as it should have been which negatively effects their innocent minds. Also, incase of broken home, a child is most vulnerable to any negativity occurring due to an unpleasant situation causing them to think they are ‘unwanted’ and/or resorting to rebellious behaviour (Trujillo, 2003).
Another, issue commonly faced by British families is negligence of children of working parents. In most households in UK, at least one parent works 20 hours a week as per a conservative estimate. A survey done by HP Laboratories Bristol showed that most of these working parents realized that their children were being neglected and agreed that the burden of home and work becomes cumbersome at times (Sellen, Hyams & Eardley, 2004). If these unpleasant feelings are piled up eventually they might lead to unfortunate circumstances; like a nervous break down of an over worked person or heart or mental ailments. Children of such homes might also turn to other sources of support rather then family and maybe misguiding and resort to alcohol or substance abuse at a young and impressionable age.
It is notable, however, that England has one third population of African American and South Asian immigrants. Most of these families stem from cultures that have strong family values. The family units have quite successfully been able to keep their family systems and values intact with focus on raising kids, providing them with appropriate education and at the same time protecting them from ‘western values’. As most of these families are financially better off then they were in their homeland, they don’t feel the need of more then one bread earner. The prime issue faced by such immigrant families is enabling their children to bond with their cultural values and avoiding ‘western values’.
Issues Faced By Indian Families: Generally, a family unit is still a very strong institution in Indian society. Conventionally, the family “unit” in India comprised of 3-4 generations living in the same household with firm religious believes and values cultivated by mothers and older women of the house in children. However, now Indian families in urban areas are much different from those in rural. Most young Indians have abandoned cultural values and norms of their ancestors (Anand Deep, 2001) which some perceive as welcoming as those included traditions like Sat’ti (meaning a wife to die if her husband dies), Dowry System, Social boycott of widows and such. Globalization and media are amongst they key drivers that bought these changes. Urban lifestyle is also becoming expensive in India which is causing both parents to work in their own capacities. Women work in wide range of occupations from corporate executives to domestic help. Therefore, like British families, Indian families also face threat of managing a household where children might be neglected due to dual constraint of home and work on both parents. Positive aspect is that most urban Indians understand the importance of education and awareness. Problems and cases of co-habitation or same sex unions are extremely rare in India and treated in society as taboo unlike Britain. However, divorce rate is higher then previous decades and single parent families are relatively common now then before.
Rural India, however, is a different story. Living conditions are poor, most population is below poverty line, education and awareness regarding health related issues is scarce. The family system is matriarchal in nature and a family adheres to orthodox practices of their ancestors. Main reliance for income is on agriculture which does not provide a steady stream of cash flow. Despite, its backward nature, women are important part of this social setup and work side by side men whether it is working in fields or becoming a participant of Rural Development Programs initiated by government. They seem more eager to change their living conditions then their male counterparts. (The Tribune India, 2003)
2. To what extent do the differences in economic circumstances impact upon families?
Economic pressure on parents and cost of raising a family is high in both countries, India and United Kingdom, as explained above. Modern families in urbanized locales of Indian and UK face similar problems regarding making ends meet. Also, as in HP Laboratories Survey, most parents expressed their wish to stay at home until their child was old or mature enough, explaining the extent of economic strain on British families (Sellen, Hyams & Eardley, 2004). Similarly, for Indian families, where if a women is not educated enough to earn at a blue or white collar job, works as a domestic help to overcome her family’s financial illiquidity. Thus, explaining, that in both countries most working parents are forced to work due to rising cost of living and would prefer for one parent to stay at home to bring children up as they realize its negative long term effects.
The rural population appear to remain somewhat oblivious to economic and financial problems faced in urban areas. In England’s case it is because residents of rural area are just not relying on farming and agriculture as their sole source of income. Tourism to UK counties has been major source of revenue for them (DEFRA, 2000). Secondly, the personal preference of settlers in this area is a slow paced life rather then a faster urban life. Indian population of rural areas have adverse living conditions and high cost of living in urban areas discourage migration, therefore, they choose to fight for their survival living in remote areas. It can be said that impact of economic constraints are very high on these families because their family values are not a result of broad mind set, rather it is an unquestioned following of orthodox practices of their ancestors causing females to die during child bearing, suffer immeasurably if she is widowed and uncountable deaths of infants due to in-appropriate childcare.
3. What difference does social class make? In other words, are families from different cultures basically similar because of similar class standings?
Problems and issues as well as basic structure of a family unit are very similar in both countries for urbanized social classes as discussed above. Their lifestyles and efforts are directed to attain same outcomes; maintaining a standard of living and educating children. Thus, we can say that economic factor is most important when it comes to why two societies with differing cultural and religious values would act alike. Here it is important to note that even though urban life seems very similar in UK and India; their rural lives couldn’t be more different.
English rural districts are prosperous as a result of tourism whereas living conditions in Indian rural areas is remorseful due to lack of education, health awareness, unhygienic living conditions and prevailing orthodox customs mentioned earlier. A lot of these problems can be accounted to virtually no economic growth and opportunity in these areas. The income of residents is entirely dependant on agricultural earnings from their land. Some families are so poor that they don’t even own land and are at mercy of other land lords. However, recently a glimmer of hope has appeared to people of these villages has been seen in form of micro-financing, especially for women (The Tribune India, 2003). These small credit models initiated by governments consider women to be their target consumers and encourage them to improve their lifestyles. It is a turn of event because in rural India family is still patriarchal in nature and earning capabilities of women are frowned upon.
Hence, from the above argument we can deduct that economic or social class standing is now defining family values in developed as well as underdeveloped countries. Cultural values are only the defining variable when social standing of each family or household is similar.
4. What seems to matter most in understanding the contrast: culture or economic circumstances?
As a result of above discussion, so far, economic circumstances matter most that how a family perceives its self, what goals does it set and what values should it adhere to.
The reason why British families do not seem influenced by cultural values is that Britain is now a cultural melting pot with immigrants from various backgrounds, inter-racial marriages and varying social groups and forms of ‘family units’. These factors make it difficult for an entire society to have similar or identical cultural values. The cultural values set in such a backdrop will be very evolutionary in nature. Each family has its own set of values; for instance, same-sex couple will teach a child to value freedom of expression and acceptance however a traditional Sikh family will teach their child how to pray in a traditional ‘Gurduwara’ and a fondness for extended family.
Likewise, Indian families in urban and rural locales have fairly different set of values and beliefs despite belonging to same culture. Urbanized location has aspect of tolerance and acceptance instilled into it because of Indian youth being familiar with lifestyles in western set of values.
The important concept here is ‘Globalization’ that has made culture of one part of world less alien to another. Opposition of religious and orthodox cultural values claim that core values in each society are same, for instance; every mother in every household will teach her children to speak the truth, not to cheat and help distressed regardless of their religion or culture.
The economic circumstances make it simpler for us to understand any differences or disparities that may occur in family systems or values in any culture or society. It helps us generalize that urban population in India and UK with their fast paced, competitive and high cost living are more money oriented and promote education for their children to ensure a secure future whereas rural populations of both countries, though differ from one another, but still adhere to the same fact that they have differing family values because their economic circumstances are fairly different.
1. Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, September, 2003, The Family Life In Europe. L’Osservatore Romano Weekly Edition in English, Retrieved 29 January 2007, from: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PCFEUROP.HTM
2. Abigail Sellen, Jenny Hyams, Rachel Eardley, March 2004, The Everyday Problems of Working Parents: Implications for New Technologies, Mobile and Media Systems Laboratory HP Laboratories Bristol, Retrieved 29 January 2007, from: www.hpl.hp.com/techreports/2004/HPL-2004-37.pdf
3. Dr Anand Deep, May 7 2001, Indian Family: Changing Pattern, Retrieved 29 January 2007, from: http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/india_probe/68534
4. Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), 2000, England Rural Development Program, Retrieved 29 January 2007, from: http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/pdfs/programme/national/nationalinclannex1_9.pdf
5. The Tribune India, 2003, President’s Growth Model, Retrieved 29 January 2007, from: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20030128/edit.htm#2