Is family a universal institution?

Is family a universal institution?

There is a big question- Is family a universal institution?. This article helps to understand the universality of family. G.P. Murdock defined family as “common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction between two adults with the socially approved sexual relationship”. He studies 250 societies and based on his study he proved that the Nuclear family is functional in society i.e. family plays a functional role in society.

The Nuclear family also fulfils the structural prerequisite of society. It is proved that family is structurally as well as functionally important. Since it plays a functional and structural role in a society, it is a universal social institution.

For the introductory part of Family go through the link-

Now, let’s understand this through the following examples.

Nayar Family

 Also known as Nair is a community inhabited by Malabar Island of Kerala state, India. A study on the Nayar tribe was done by Kathleen Gough.

Nayar family (photo- Indiafacts)

Here Joint family is known as ‘Tharavad’. The head of the family is known as ‘Karnavan’. They have characters of Patrilocal and Matrilineal. Residence Natolocal is found (To learn about Ptrilocal, Matrilineal, Natolocal go through the topic- Family). They have a specific Marriage system.

There is a practice of initiation ceremony for girls at the age of 14 known as ‘talikettu kalyanam (tali– tying ceremony) and sambandham (the customary nuptials of a man and women)’. In this ceremony, a boy of the same lineage ties a Tali at the girl’s wrist, which means that the girl is married now and after this girl can freely make a sexual relationship with any boy. Hence, ‘Tali and Sambhandham’ give social approval to girls for sexual relationships.

After the ceremony, the boy separated from the girl after 2-3 days and then the girl can live with anyone by her own choice. Husband is known as ‘Visiting husbands’.

The features like- Patrilineal, economic dependence and sexual relationships among the family members are not found in the Nayar family.

But certain features of family are found in this community like the sexual relationships is there in between some of them which are accepted by society. Parents nurture their children, there is some economic dependence. Hence the family system is found here.

Kibbutz system of Isreal- 

Melford Spiro studied on kibbutz community of Isreal. Among this community, the husband-wife relationship is not permanent traditionally.

Kibbutz family of Isreal (photo- Britannica)

Male and female lives together for sexual relationship for some time and then after the birth of a child, they give their children to nurse or Midwife for nurturing and they pay for it.

Hence it looks like that they do not have a family system. But when studied deeply, the family system is there as these features are seen-

  • The Male-female sexual relationship is accepted by society.
  • Patrilineal because father keeps midwife for nurturing of children.
  • Matrilineal because the mother pays to the midwife.

So features of family are found here.

Generally, there is various work of a family which cannot be done by any other system like sexual satisfaction, nurturing of children, primary socialization.

That is why family is important till now. Family is found in the whole world. Hence it is clear that family is universal.

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