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Family as a social institution
Family is a foundational institution in any society. It is held as the single most important social institution by the Indic Civilization, called Grihastha Ashrama.
Family is the basis for providing physical as well as emotional nutrition for the next generation. It is the foundation for enjoying the company of the current generation and caring for the previous generation. It provides the necessary ambiance for bringing together all the three generations for sharing the rich experiences of life.
Family is the soil in which the next generation grows. Though justice seems to belong to the judicial institutions, the sense of justice of a person originates from the upbringing in the family Though education seems to belong to educational institutions, the sense and value of education are embedded into a person's character by the institution of Family. No other institution compares as well to the institution of Family, in influencing the character of the individuals and hence that of the society.
Hence, from time immemorial, societies have developed methods, established norms, and built support structures to ensure the success of the institution of Family. These methods, norms, and support structures used to prepare the young men and women to smoothly adapt from the life of being single to the life of being the head and heart of a family, and from being a child to raising children.
However, it is safe to assume, that there was never a time and place in history where 100% of the marriages were successful. Problems like dominant personalities, excessive control, excessive intervention, using people, exploiting weaknesses, forcing others to do their way, greediness, male chauvinism, female stubbornness, sexual issues, adultery, challenging economic conditions, and cultural differences caused marriages to fail in many ways. Some failures were out in the open. Others were undeclared failures.
In modern times, the institution of Family is facing even more challenges causing the percentage to steeply higher. Industrialization and urbanization are changing the environment underneath our feet, rendering the older methods unviable, established norms lose their ground and support structures dwindle and crumble in front of our eyes, and introducing new problems and challenges like two-career families, uncertain financial future, stress at work, overwhelming professional, social, spiritual vocations/commitments, more opportunities to explore personal interests, thinning family connections, dwindling support structures, the irrelevance of norms, too many choices and lack of emotional nourishment.
The repercussions of this can be directly felt in the increase of the number of troubled or failed marriages, in the number of single parents, and in the number of children distressed and disillusioned and torn in the middle of the fissures in the relationship between the parents. The repercussions can be felt indirectly in the increase in depression levels, increase in alcoholism, and so on.
This problem is not specific to any single country or civilization. It can be seen in every part of the world. It is more visible and prevalent in the emerging middle class whose single-minded pursuit of upward mobility is weakening the connections to the traditional methods, norms, and structures.
People get into marriage, rarely with a good understanding of all that is involved in marriage and family life. In the olden times and in the fortunate families, there used to be enough people around to support the young couples while they are wading in the shallow waters learning to float and swim before they get into the deep waters of running a family. Times are changing. Economic and social conditions are favoring atomic families. It is a deep dive from the get-go. Young families are getting into trouble more and more in recent years, as they fail to find a firm ground when the currents carry them away.
These support structures were embedded in the societies of the past, which are primarily based on the agrarian economy. With the advent of the industrial economy, those structures are weakening and falling apart everywhere. We need to find new ways of compensating for the loss of those social structures. That is the mission of Grihastha.