The Joint Family Today and in History

Published February 26, 2021
Joint family

Families come in all shapes and sizes. One notable familial conglomeration is a joint family. Joint families differ from nuclear families in numerous ways and include varying benefits and unique cons.

What Is a Joint Family?

A joint family occurs when several sets of siblings, along with their spouses and children, live together, sharing resources and responsibilities. Joint families typically only follow one side of the linage (matriarchal or patriarchal.) An example of a joint family would be a set of biological brothers, their spouses, and those couples' offspring all residing in the same home. Grandparents may or may not be present in the joint family structure.

A joint family is similar to an extended family, and often, the terms become interchangeable. Extended family refers to the family throughout generations, but they may live in separate abodes, whereas members of a joint family typically dwell in a single compound.

What Is the Norm?

Simply put, a "normal" or typical family structure depends on where and how someone lives. In the United States, the majority of families currently live in nuclear arrangements, a family consisting of only the parents and children, although the number of nuclear families living in areas where that structure is the norm is on the decline.

Nuclear families are more common in parts of the world considered to be industrialized. Prior to the Industrial Revolution in the U.S., siblings, spouses, offspring, and elderly generations lived together in rural areas working, living, and providing for all family members. As adults began moving away from rural family life, seeking opportunities in the city, joint family formation gave way to nuclear setups. Individuals working and living away from extended family married and began choosing to remain put as opposed to return to the core family.

Joint family in India

Recent years have seen a shift away from nuclear families, which have their pros and cons, and back towards joint families. The reasoning for this varies depending on the family situation. Certain economic hardships, aging parents in need of care, a desire to continue with cultural traditions, and a need for more care and support are only a few reasons why joint families are becoming popular once more.

In some parts of the world, joint family living continues to be ideal. In India, it is commonplace to find grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and children all residing in a single space, caring for children, providing for the family unit, and handling tasks and daily chores.

Nuclear vs. Joint Families

There is no true "right" way to structure your family. How you choose to live comes down to functionality for you and your family. There are pros and cons to living in both a joint family and a nuclear family.

Benefits to Joint Families

There are several economic and social benefits to remaining in a joint family structure. For many people around the world, life in a joint family functions more seamlessly than raising children in a nuclear structure.

  • Constant support and company within the family unit
  • Several adults to contribute financially
  • Numerous people to help with childcare and home care
  • Respect for the elderly is often emphasized and taught to youth
  • Traditions are easily passed to generations via older family members living in the home

Cons to Joint Families

While joint family structures offer many benefits to family members, there are some notable drawbacks to the arrangement as well.

  • Very little privacy
  • Finances can become tight if several adults and children live in the home, but many do not contribute financially
  • Conflicts of interest in parenting can arise if adults in the home disagree on issues regarding the children
  • Even minor issues must be discussed, worked out, and approved by all adult members in the home
  • The group needs come before individual needs

Benefits to Nuclear Families

The majority of people in industrialized nations raise families in nuclear structures and judging from the benefits, it's fairly easy to understand why this is.

  • Having two parents in a union living under the same roof typically provides stability to children.
  • Consistency is often apparent as there are only two adults making the family decisions in a nuclear family.
  • More opportunities for children as the number of kids in a nuclear family is often smaller than in a joint family. More resources to allocate to dependants.
Joint family having dinner

Cons to Nuclear Families

While nuclear families are popular in many parts of the world, they too have some cons.

  • Isolation can occur when a nuclear family separates itself from extended family.
  • Parental burnout is sometimes evident as there are only two adults to carry all the family responsibilities.
  • Nuclear families adopt a child-centered view, sometimes leading to egocentric thinking and not a broader common good perspective.

Other Types of Families

Joint families are only one type of family structure found throughout the world. Aside from joint families, there are several other widely recognized types of families that people reside and raise children in.

Nuclear Family

Nuclear families consist of two parents (who are either married by law or living under common law) and their children. Only the one family unit lives under a single roof and makes all parenting and financial decisions.

One-Parent Family

One parent lives under one roof with their child or children. The parent can be widowed, divorced, or never married. This single adult is responsible for all duties surrounding the child and the home.

Extended Family

An extended family is similar to a joint family. There are several adults, often of differing generations, living communally or close by one another. Joint families live under one roof and in many cultures have an elder male acting as the head of the household. Joint families have the defining feature of siblings, spouses, and children living together. Extended families are multigenerational and can, but don't have to be, living under the same roof.

Childless Family

Two adults can certainly be a family, even if they don't have any children. Many couples choose to live their lives without adding offspring to their family and are still considered a type of family. Childless families were once considered taboo in many parts of the country, but are now widely accepted.


Step-families or blended families occur when one parent with biological or adopted children marries another adult who may or may not have children of their own. The blending of the two adults and the children, who are only attached to one parent via marriage, creates the step-family.

Grandparent Family

Grandparents sometimes take on the role of primary caregivers to their grandchildren and in doing this, grandparent families are created. Grandparent families occurs for a wide array of reasons. If a child's biological parents can not care for them, is away on active military duty, or is deceased, grandparents might find themselves doing the work of a child's parents, assuming all roles and responsibilities in the family.

Common Trait of All Family Structures

Families are incredibly unique. Each family has its own set of values, beliefs, traditions, religion, and structural makeup. While they might look different on the outside, they all have one commonality. Families are made up of love, and as long as there is that, then the family is a success.

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The Joint Family Today and in History