But what is that which determines the family? “It is”, says Radcliffe-Brown, “the necessary conditions of existence of the social organism.” When the child comes out of the womb of the mother, there is nobody to help it.
Among the animals, the moment the calf is born, its stands up and its dependence on the cow is short-lived. In the case of human beings the period of dependence varies from society to society.
All of us are the products of family. Whether we like it or not, we identify with our family. Besides, our status also depends on our family. In India, right from birth to death, a person is dependent on his family in one way or the other. The family thus helps us fulfill some necessary conditions of existence.
Currently, the institution of family has become controversial. Though it is a universal social institution and is regarded fundamental, both for the individual and society as a whole, there are new perspectives which question many of the assumptions of the more traditional view. For instance, in India, LP. Desai made a breakthrough by stating that the Indian family is essentially a joint family.
His observation though emerges out of his empirical work from Mahua (Gujarat), it applies to all caste Hindus, tribals and rural and urban communities.
In the west, during the late sixties, the Women’s Liberation Movement began to shake the foundations of the family by attacking the role of women within it. “This attack was developed by some feminist writers into a condemnation of the family as an institution.”