Why Do We Need a Family?

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					           Why Do We Need a Family?
Summary: We have seen the trend from extended families to nuclear families and
now to family of individuals, enabled by independence gained by individuals
through technological change and consequential cultural change during the past
and the present century. However, despite all the changes, need for family has not
diminished for various reasons.

Institution of family is probably the oldest institution created by humans. The only
other institution in competition with institution of family is society. It is difficult to
say which one preceded the other. Even it is difficult to say, what led to
emergence of institution of family. Whether it was a prudent, pragmatic,
intellectually determined decision of entire humanity to organize humans into
groups designated as ‘family’ based on the principle of consanguinity or it has
occurred spontaneously due to human preference towards monogamy (demand
for exclusivity in intimate physical relationship), relationships, parental care of
young ones, care of the sick and elderly, cultural needs etc.

But one thing is certain that it is the oldest surviving human institution that
continues to survive. Issues such as nuclear family versus joint family continue to
raise heat and dust in human society. Concept of ‘family’ is deeply ingrained into
our sense of humanity, ethics, morality and even law. Family is a legally protected
and perpetuated institution in several of its facets. Rules of conduct within a
family are quite different from rules of conduct outside the family.

But it is equally true that technological advances of the past and present century
have enabled relatively independent living and as a consequence existence of
institution of family is apparently threatened. Extended families have
disintegrated into nuclear families the world over, children being reluctant to bear
with and discharge their responsibilities towards their parents, in order to enjoy
their individual freedom to the hilt.

Now, with technological advancement brought in particularly by World Wide
Web, there is a talk about family of individuals i.e. if there are four persons in a
family; that is father, mother and two children; then everybody is leading a totally
independent life except the common roof and not even that. There is very little
meeting ground left among members of a family.

Against the above background, the original question becomes all the more
relevant as to why even in today’s world we need a family.

   1. Sentiments and relationships: We, humans, howsoever objective and
      rational we may become can’t do away with our sentiments and the need
      to have relationships. Reduction of human beings to conscious automaton
      or robots is just not possible.
      No doubt, sentiments may be ephemeral in character but have a
      materialistic basis encoded in our genes and reflected as our innate
      behavior. That is the reason that parents can’t deliberately hurt their
      children even if they have done something wrong. People go miles and
      miles to please their spouse. Children demand love and affection to grow
      up. Elderly demand company of their children etc.
      Relationships are a long term phenomenon and can’t be honored without
      commitment. This is because each and every relationship has its highs and
      lows primarily due to fleeting sentiments; and may be conflict of interests.
      Relationships can be sustained only if commitments are kept through such
      highs and lows. It often demands holistic approach rather than mechanistic,
      single minded objective and rational approach.
      Somehow only within the institution of a family an arrangement can be
      provided for satisfaction of short term interests i.e. sentiments as well as
      long term interests i.e. relationships. Those, who opt otherwise, are often
      seen to run into difficulties.

   2. Learning Curve: Human learning curve is steep one and technological
      advances of the past and present century have made it steeper. Gone are
      the days when age determined wisdom and knowledge of individual, so
      younger ones naturally falling in line with their elders and taking care of
      them in return. In several aspects of today’s life, children are better
      informed than their parents. But members of a family act as ready reckoner
      for each other and ever ready to provide hands on training in case of need.
   The only difference between past and present on this ground is that today
   relationships have become more equitable. The contribution of institution
   of family towards learning curve is that it eases out or smoothes the
   learning curve. Without appropriate family support even the most brilliant
   of individual is liable to get reduced to merely a spoke in the wheel and
   earn the title of ‘Learned Fool’.

3. Parental Care: It is amazing that no other species except Homosapiens
   requires such prolonged parental care in order to survive through
   Darwinian struggle for existence. But this mandates institution of family for
   humans. Further, children from broken families often have inappropriate
   personality development. Children need love and affection not only from
   both the parents but also from their grandparents for proper personality
   growth and development. It is highly undesirable to grow them up as
   monsters steeped in single minded, objective and rational pursuit of self-
   interest; lacking in comprehensive approach towards life and connected
   matters. Qualities of character such as compassion, empathy, respect and
   regard for others are more easily cultivated in a family than without.

4. Care of the elderly and the sick: Because of advances in medical sciences,
   life expectancy has increased and diseases are not such dreaded natural
   phenomenon as they used to be. But somebody has to take care of
   individuals through their highs and lows. Nothing can beat the institution of
   family in providing ground level support through thick and thin that
   permeates human existence.

5. Inheritance: We all want to live larger than life or we want to live beyond
   our natural death. So we all have a desire to forward our lifelong gains to
   the next generation. But the issues such as whom to transfer and how to
   transfer are best resolved within four corners of institution of family.
Undoubtedly, there can be many more reasons that mandate institution of family
even today but for the sake of brevity present discussion is limited to the above.

Summarizing all above, despite all the technological advances of the past and the
present century, human need for institution of family has not decreased. Rather,
it has increased to ease out the learning curve through rapid technological
advances and to provide care of the elderly and the sick.

Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor and has written the
book “Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins
with first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains
cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life
and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary
concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. This is the only
book which deals with origin of nature and universe from null or Zero or nothing.
32nd Chapter of the book is about Culture, Religion and Science.

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Description: Summary: We have seen the trend from extended families to nuclear families and now to family of individuals, enabled by independence gained by individuals through technological change and consequential cultural change during the past and the present century. However, despite all the changes, need for family has not diminished for various reasons.