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Changing patterns of family life in urban Gujarat : a study of twelve high-caste working women Wood , Marjorie Rodgers

Abstract

"Changing Patterns of Family Life in Urban Gujarat" is primarily a descriptive analysis of the family lives of twelve employed Indian women. Data for the study are derived from formal and informal interviews conducted in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, between June 1968 and April 1969. Three areas of family life are examined: traditions of caste and sect, life-style, and intrafamilial relationships. For each area, the women's present behaviour and beliefs are compared to those evident in their recollections of childhood experiences, and to the behaviour and beliefs prescribed by Gujar-ati tradition. It is hypothesized that the changes in family life made by the employed women are congruent with the values and attitudes of modern individuals, values and attitudes which are said to be indicated by a dynamic and pragmatic approach to life, an individualistic view of self and others, and a cosmopolitan orientation. Analysis reveals that changes have occurred in the three areas of family life. Traditions of caste and sect pertaining to daily routine and life-cycle events have been abbreviated or omitted, while those pertaining to calendrical events are observed and some all-caste celebrations have been universalized and elaborated upon. In their life-style, the respondents are more mobile than were their parents, and more inclined to reside in suburban areas and in socially heterogeneous areas. The amount of living space has declined, while the number and variety of material possessions has increased. The respondents, their husbands, and their children spend less time in the home than did members of the respondents' families of orientation, but they spend more time together as a family. In their intrafamilial relationships, the respondents favour less hierarchical, more egalitarian modes of interaction. They follow traditional patterns of interaction if their relationship to a family member is strained or, in the case of husband's elders, if it is intermittent. But positive relationships within the household are characterized by reciprocal, relatively egalitarian behaviour. It is suggested that the reasons given by the respondents for the changes in family life are congruent with modern attitudes and values. Reasons given for several changes in traditions of caste and sect and in features of life-style indicate the operation of a dynamic, pragmatic approach to life or of a cosmopolitan orientation. Increased individualism is evident in the reasons given for other changes in tradition and life-style, and for changes in intrafamilial relationships. Women's employment appears to be an important factor influencing the direction of change, particularly in the area of traditions. Other variables such as the respondents' caste affiliation, type of marriage, household composition, and educational background are found to influence the extent of change. However, reason for employment does not appear significantly related to the direction or extent of change. The study is based on a small, atypical, and non-random sample of women. No major conclusions are reached, but the patterns of change and factors in change which are suggested raise questions for further research on a growing and influential element of India's population — that of the educated and employed woman.

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