Some of the salient features of modern family are as follows:
(i) Decreased control of the marriage contract Marriage is the basis of family:
In traditional family the marriage was contracted by the parents. The marriage ceremony was based on the principle of male dominance and female obedience. In modern family people are less subject to the parental control concerning whom and when they shall marry. The marriage is now settled by the partners themselves. It is choice of mate by mate usually preceded by courtship or falling in love.
(ii) Changes in the relationship of man and woman:
In modern family the woman is not the devotee of man but an equal partner in life with equal rights. The husband now does not dictate but only requests the wife to do a task for him. She is now emancipated of the man’s slavery. She is no longer the drudge and slave of olden days. She can divorce her husband as the husband can divorce her. She can sue the husband for her rights and likewise be sued.
(iii) Laxity in sex relationships:
The rigidity traditionally associated with sexual relationships no longer characterizes the modern family, cases of illegitimate sex relationship of the husband and wife too can be seen in modern family.
(iv) Economic independence:
Women in modern family have attained an increasing degree of economic independence. It is not only the husband who leaves the home for work but it is also the wife who goes out of doors for work. The percentage of women employed outside the home is continually on the increase. In India the number of women going out for employment is steadily increasing.
In upper classes women are property owners and in lower classes they are wage earners or professional workers. This economic independence has largely affected the attitude of modern woman. Formerly she had no choice but to find a male partner who could marry her and support her economically. She now does not feel helpless before man but settles matters with him in terms of her own.
She is not a slave of the man who provides her with food, clothing and shelter but she can now earn her own living. Such a feature did not mark the traditional family. According to MacIver and Page, “Not only the economic and the religious changes but the whole process of modern civilization within which they fall has worked towards giving woman a new position in society and specially in relation to man.” In short, woman in the modern family has come as near achieving equality with men and children emancipation from parents.
(v) Smaller family:
The modern family is a smaller family. It is no longer a joint family. Moreover the tendency is to have a smaller family and the contraceptives help in checking the birth.
(vi) Decline of religious control:
The modern family is secular in attitude. The religious rites of the traditional family such as early prayer, yagya etc. are no longer performed in modern family. Marriage also has become a civil contract rather than a religious sacrament. It can be broken at any hour. The authority of religion over the conditions of marriage and divorce has markedly declined. Divorce is a frequent occurrence in modern family. In traditional family it was a rare phenomenon.
(vii) Separation of non-essential functions:
The modern family has given up a great many functions which were performed by the traditional family. These functions have now been taken over by specialized agencies. Thus the hospital offers room for the birth of child, in the nursing home he is brought up, in the kindergarten he is educated and in the playground he recreates.
Not only this much but many of the traditional tasks of the household such as cooking and baking, cleaning and washing are also performed outside the household by specialized agencies. The process advances still further as more and more families rely upon prepared and manufactured goods consumed by the family.
(viii) Filo-centric family:
In the modern family the trend is towards the filo-centric family. A filo-centric family is one wherein the children tend to dominate the scene and their wishes determine the policy of die family. In modern family physical punishment is rarely awarded to the children. The children now decide which school they will study in, what clothes they will wear, what food will be cooked and which movie they will go to enjoy.
Thus the family has been subjected to profound modifications of an economic, social and biological nature. The modern family is no longer the economic and self-sufficient unit. The women are no longer subordinated to the male dominance and are no longer confined to the drudgery of incessant toil in addition to the continual bearing of children.
The use of contraception has reduced the number of children born during marriage. Ceremony and religion have lost almost all connection with the home as an entity. The individuation of family members has reached a point beyond which it cannot go. The size and functions of the family have been reduced. It has suffered a change in regard to both its structure and functions.
It now consists of the married couple and two or three children. Even this smallest family unit has shown a tendency towards instability. Its functions have been taken over by several specialized agencies. The functions of the present day family tend to revolve around personality. Burgess referred to the modern family as “a unity of interacting personalities.” The modern family is more individualised and democratic where women enjoy a high prestige and position. From an institution, it has moved towards companionship.