Families in Crisis

Marital Breakdown in India Family has always been central to Indian civilizational thinking, with its many elaborate customs, rules, and values. It has remained a highly esteemed and cherished institution throughout a long and complicated history across diverse geography, cultures, and peoples. Some of its distinctive Indian features include strong relational bonding within a joint family system; arranged marriages; high marital stability; a desire for children; greater intergenerational depth and interactions; and shared living arrangements, property, and religion. However, families in India have undergone a dramatic transformation in the past two decades, far more than all the changes put together since India’s independence in 1947. These changes are rattling the very core of Indian society and its national psyche. Since the opening of the Indian economy in the early 1990s, Indian families have experienced prosperity, mobility, Western cultural influence, demographic shift, prejudices, injustices, educational and economic disparities, media technologies, etc., which have contributed to the undermining of the Indian family system in unpredictable ways. In this paper, the authors analyze the growing trend of marital breakdown impacting contemporary families in India and identify some underlying grounds behind the rising social instability. This is not an exhaustive analysis of all issues related to marriage and family life in India, but these finding are based upon extensive involvement of the authors with Indian families and built on input from many scholars, community and religious leaders in India, and the global Indian diaspora. Family Breakdown: Rising Social Instability Indian society is known for its traditional joint family system, which provided much order and stability to communities. The joint families would consist of many relatives living under one roof and sharing one kitchen and often a single bank account. Though it may trace its roo
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