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Difference Between Nuclear Family And Extended Family Essay Introduction

Nuclear Family vs Extended Family

Family is the most basic social unit in any society. A family is vital in human context as it helps is socialization of kids. But, before we talk about the functions and responsibilities of a family, it is necessary to differentiate between nuclear family and extended family, which is confusing for many people (especially in cultures where extended family is still the norm). A family is described as a unit that consists of biologically related (or related through marriage) people that live together under a single roof. Extended family is a natural concept that is still very popular in many cultures, though nuclear family is fast gaining popularity as people move out to other cities in search of employment. Let us find out differences between these two types of families.

In old times, with fewer opportunities of education and employment, people remained with their parents and even married and raised their kids in their parental home. This meant that such a family included man and his wife, their children, spouses of children and kids of children. This made for a large grouping with roles and responsibilities of members divided. Women looked after kids and cooked food, while men folk worked to earn bread. This was an arrangement that worked well in old times, as it was easier for kids as well as men to remain assured of the safety of their wives and kids. It necessitated a large house with a common kitchen, where women of the family cooked food for all members of the family. Head of the family was the oldest male member and the family was patriarchal in nature. Head of the family was respected by all and he also had the authority to solve all problems and disputes between family members.

There are still some countries and cultures where extended family is the norm, though nuclear families are rising in number. India is one country where despite all modernism and advancement, one can still find extended families, which are called joint families there. Joint families result in savings as money is pooled and grocery items are purchased in bulk.

It was when people had to move out of their villages and settle in cities where they got employment opportunities that the concept of nuclear families developed. A nuclear family includes man and his wife along with his children (unmarried). It was only natural for a man to marry after getting a job in a city away from his parental home to start his own family. There are no cousins, aunts, and uncles to fall back upon for a growing kid in a nuclear family. However, in nuclear families, there is greater privacy and autonomy for the head of the family who is free to take decisions, which is not possible in an extended family.

It is a known fact that the virtues of tolerance and compliance are slowly decreasing in degree and in modern world where materialism is the buzz word, nuclear families are being preferred over extended families. Women feel more confident in their approach when they raise a nuclear family than when they are in an extended family, as they know that they are alone, and have to face all situations on their own and cannot expect a cushion of other people as is the case with an extended family.

What is the difference between Nuclear Family and Extended Family?

It is seen that nuclear families encourage entrepreneurship more than extended families though there are also chances of kids becoming rebellious with both parents working, and no one in the home to have control over kids. There is no doubt that there is more convenience for people in extended families as responsibilities are shared and raising of kids is also easier as there are women to take care of kids in the absence of working mother. In terms of freedom to wear what one wants to and also in other matters, whether financial or pertaining to kids, nuclear family is far ahead of extended families.

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"Difference Between Nuclear Family and Extended Family." DifferenceBetween.Com. July 31, 2011. < >

Filed Under: FamilyTagged With: extended family, Family, joint families, nuclear family, patriarchal

Key Difference: In simple terms, the main difference between joint family and nuclear family is that a joint family is a big family, whereas a nuclear family is a small family.

Family is the most important part of a person; from an early age a child is taught the importance of a family and the part he/she is expected to play in the family. Girls are most commonly taught about cooking, while boys are taught the family business. However, these importances are differentiated according to the families people live in. In this article, let us mainly focus on two families, i.e. joint family and nuclear family.

In a joint family, even if parents go to work, grandparents will be taking care of the children. They will be instructing them the right manners and good qualities about life, and turn the life of children in the opposite way. In the nuclear family, parents quarrel with each other and there is no one to settle the issue. However, in joint family there are parents or in-laws to give advice to the parents to settle the issue.

Tribes, small villages, group of people and such small civilization units are the predecessors of the joint families. Joint families are still common in several parts of the worlds, India, China, African nations and even Arab nations having a large number of such families. Whereas, nuclear families are widely popular in the United States and Europe.

A major importance is placed on family; traditional cultures suggest living in joint families, where parents, male children, children’s spouses and grandchildren, all reside in the same house. However, nuclear families have started receiving more importance in urban cultures.

Comparison between Joint Family and Nuclear Family:


Joint Family

Nuclear Family



A type of extended family composed of parents, their children, and the children's spouses and offspring in one household.

A social unit composed of two parents and one or more children.





Joint Family is mostly helpful in developing good qualities of the individual.

In a nuclear family, it is not necessary that parents can’t develop good qualities in their children, but yes, it is true that this becomes difficult at times.


The primary emotion is a general affectionate bond between two generations and within the members of the generations.

Nuclear family is mainly based upon the emotion of parental love and sibling connection and hence the structural functionalism (mechanism of relationships) is fairly straightforward.


Joint families have less freedom.

Nuclear families have more freedom.

Financial needs

Joint family has less financial needs.

Nuclear family has more financial needs.

Youngsters prefer

Youngsters who prefer social life with better support system prefer joint families.

Youngsters prefer freedom and less restriction choose nuclear family.


Joint families have more quarrels.

Nuclear families have fewer quarrels.