We humans are, by nature, social beings, and the first exposure to the social world begins with the bond we build with our parents and family members. The family is the first institution that forms the foundation of an individual’s life, beginning from parenting an infant, and in fact, is the only institution that remains a constant variable in the individual’s life until his or her death. Humans, as social beings, rely on the family, and subsequently the peers, and other tertiary ecological systems to fulfil their needs as an individual within the larger network of the community they live in. It is the family members, who form the primary web of interpersonal relationships for us. With the changing times, we can find ourselves so engulfed in the fast-paced and competitive race in the world, that the value attached to the family has undergone a huge transition.
Importance of Family Support
1. Social system. It is the family which serves as a setting for much of our growth and experience, especially during the growing years of our lives. In fact, it would not be incorrect to say that the family serves as a primary ecological niche which provides for the socialization and survival of the next generation.
2. Sharing of responsibilities. Family as an institution breeds a sense of shared responsibility within us. Especially in a collectivistic society like India, all the more emphasis is given to the culture-specific concepts of interdependence and cohesion.
3. Imbibing value systems. Further, it is the family which as an institution serves as the foundation for the internalization of an individual’s values, tenets and beliefs, which could then be moulded and adapted over the course of the individual’s experiences in the future. Finally, it is this family which provides the centre for transmission of values and culture through the growing generations.
4. Unconditional nature of support. Even though we might be spending a larger part of our times away from the family, be it at school, college, workplace or any other social situation, it is ultimately our family on whom we tend to inevitably fall back upon. Despite of the heights of our growth as an individual in the society, the family serves as the basis of our deeply held roots and the foundation for our growth and development.
Understanding Family Support in Contemporary Times
1. Addressing inter-generational gap. Typically, more emphasis is given to the role of a family during the nurturance of a new generation. Dearth and scarcity of time and energy is a very common complaint to hear today, be it amongst children, adolescents or adults. And it is not uncommon to observe older adults, post retirement complaining of having too much time on their hands, and wishing that their family or near and dear ones would have some moments to spare for them. Wider generation gaps are a trend which is a likely manifestation of the decreasing communication between them, leading to growing distance and disconnect within a family.
2. Social alienation. With the flood of invasion by technological advancements which can be witnessed today, there is a growing tendency of social alienation and even isolation across the society. It would be easier for some us to complain of being ‘disconnected’ if we were to be deprived of our technological gadgets even for a couple of hours, rather than if we have been unable to be in touch with our own families for a couple of days!
3. Lack of ‘family time’. The cliché of ‘quality family time’ has almost lost its meaning in the contemporary world, with most of us glues to our mobile phones, being absorbed within the entanglements of our various commitments and priorities in the outside world. In addition to the need to emphasize family time in the midst of our fast-paced world today, it is also important to pay attention to our family communication patterns, which form the essence of the social institution. The quality of communication and relationships within our family members determines the basis of our interpersonal functioning in the outside world, while further serving as the primary model of vicarious learning, not just for children but for the adults as well.