Big Business and Small Families
Prof R Vaidyanathan

Throughout sixties/seventies advertisements in print and visual media in the west projected “happy” families consist of husband /wife one boy one girl may be a dog. Happy family will not have mother-in-laws or sisters-in-laws, leave alone aged parents. Destruction of joint families was a major aim of businesses so that they can have more houses, more ACs, more microwaves and more consumer goods sold.

In eight member household they may use one fridge but two four member households will use two refrigerators. The amount of larger markets generated by the big companies in shrinking family size is unimaginable. The project could succeed since slowly family centric civilization was converted to sex centric civilization. All activities/serials/stories/films were becoming “sex” centric and it helped in a way in reducing the size of the family since relationships were projected more “uni-centric” than “multi-centric” but every such developments has within its own womb its own seeds of destruction.

In 1971, there was a shift in attitudes, as Americans’ “ideal” family switched from four kids (19%) to two kids (38%), with a mean saying 2.9 kids was ideal. Back in 1936, the mean ideal number of kids was 3.6, with 22% saying four children; 32% saying three children; and another 32% saying two children. Fast-forward from the 1930s to 2013, the most recent data available, and you get a different picture, with 2.6 as the mean ideal.

What’s behind the dramatic shift? Likely a number of factors, beginning with the wide availability of the birth control pill in the 1960s; the growth of women’s participation in the workforce, which surged in the 1970s; and, of course, the increasing cost of raising kids (

The number of people per household declined significantly in the U.S. from 1960 to 2015. The average American household in 2015 consisted of 2.54 people which was 3.33 in 1960. Basically one can call this as post–contraceptive civilisation.

Table 1.1: The collapse of family life: Most children in U.S. born out of wedlock [2013]

Births outside wedlock's US in the Year 2013

Company Percentage 10-19 years
U S 41% [53% for under 30 yrs.] 7%
Out of which
Blacks 73% 11%
Latino 53% 10.50%

( (Table: 15& Table 26)

Table-2 Most children will be born out of wedlock by 2016—in UK-because of the decline in marriage, according to official figures.

Births outside Europe in the Year 2014

Country Percentage
U K* 48%
Denmark 52%
Norway 55%
Sweden 54%

(*-UK Data is 2012,

We find from the above tables 1.1 and 1.2 that the number of what were earlier called “illegitimate” children “New Normal”; ability of the Americans to coin new terms to explain old issues is very interesting! This has given rise to single parent — actually single mother — families. The situation among the blacks is catastrophic, with more than 70% of kids being raised by single mothers. Unfortunately, many of these kids get into drugs etc. and also cause social tensions in their ghettos. Also we observe that 7% of the births are to children in the 10 to 19 years of age. In one corner of India in a village, if a child marriage takes place, so much hue and cry is raised to make it appear as a regular phenomenon in India. In USA 7% (among blacks 11%) of births are obviously illegitimate.

Collapse of the family has bewildered the big business since alternative form of social blocks have not come into existence. Business wants a functional society having basic building blocks like family, community etc. One individual directly dealing with the State through courts may be a liberal paradise, but it is a business nightmare since it is the families who buy products. Hence attempts are made to create alternate units of social blocks, and herein comes the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) groups. They are small in number but reasonable big in influences since many big business executives have adopted that life style. A report published in April 2011 by the Williams Institute estimated that 3.8 percent of Americans are identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, 1.7 percent as lesbian or gay, 1.8 percent as bisexual, and 0.3 percent as transgender ( It is more or less recognised, nay even fashionable, in some segments of American society to identify with these groups. It is presented as alternate and acceptable life style.

Obviously this trend is an anti-thesis of earlier ideas of marriage and family. But from joint family to nuclear family (husband, wife and 2 kids) to neutron family of single mother, to perhaps proton family of no parents only kids — it must be a long journey. There is thus the clamour for LGBT “couple” to adopt children since two women or two men, as of now, cannot procreate. Also efforts are made to use modern methods to store semen or use tissue culture to procreate. These are for the future.

Hence, a major challenge faced by Western societies and Business is: how to replace “traditional family” units with newer forms of relationships. Will they succeed? Are we too have to use the same path to finally converge or maintain our family structures? These are fundamental questions, which alas, we do not want to even discuss. Ignorance is bliss!

Published Date: 28th August 2016, Image Source:
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Vivekananda International Foundation)

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