The family is a universal social institution; it is the base for building social and cultural values for a person. In the age of modernization, features of the family are undergoing rapid change and family is no longer contributing to building strong social norms. Families are failing to teach social norms, values to their members. The culture of Bangladesh and social systems were created through strong bonds among people. It is hard to find this form of social and cultural bonding in Bangladesh today.
This is not a failure of society but it is a failure of family. In Bangladesh, family structures also are changing at present, by following global trends. Extended families are breaking into nuclear families. Families are the main factor which creates strong bonds within family members and society. Extended families form the core of this relationship which can build a strong society, but nuclear families can create neither strong bonds of kinship within the family nor in society.
The history of Bangladesh shows that the family structure was totally different from today. “Family” referred to extended family; nuclear families were rare. Families taught their members religious values, social norms and behaviour and also taught respect for each other. Nowadays, “family” refers to a nuclear family; existence of extended families is rare in Bangladesh.
From the 1990s, the rate of breakdown of extended families to nuclear families has been increasing. Why has the extended family lost its position in society?
The prime cause is the culture of westernization rather than economic causes. Westernization means following the culture of European countries and USA, which are considered highly developed. In these countries, the history of the extended family has become a myth.
In fact, even the nuclear family structure is vulnerable in some western countries. The tradition of single fathers and single mothers is on the rise. The main reason for breakdown of the family in western countries is on the “question of freedom.” The family would interfere in the free choices and freedom of family members.
Similarly, people in Bangladesh are following western culture and destroying their own. The family culture of Bangladesh is not against freedom of choice and actual freedom of individuals. However, people are grasping the ideology of “western freedom;” many extended families are turning into nuclear family in both urban and rural parts of Bangladesh.
Actually, the extended family culture of Bangladesh helps it members to protect their freedom and also helps to make clear choices with freedom. A misunderstanding of the concept of “freedom” has led many extended families to break down. Consequently, families are failing to impart ethics, values and norms to its members. People without ethical and social roots and values can create any kind of violence in society.
In nuclear families, a member cannot get the environment of proper socialization. As a result, family kinship and societal bonds are getting weaker by the day and unethical and antisocial activities like crimes, violence and sexual harassment, even radicalization of members, are growing in society. Murders, rapes and violent crime are increasing in Bangladesh because there is little affection or cohesion within families and they have failed to teach basic social norms and ethical values to members.
Modern culture has succeeded in destroying the traditional family structure and we are failing to protect our culture from destruction.
(The author is studying Development Studies at the University of Dhaka. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)