Traditional families are strongly patriarchal (Parreñas, 2001, p.105).
A large share of traditional families was matrilineal and gave women an important position in decision making. Even in patriarchal traditional families, there was always a scope for scrutiny of the action of a male towards his female partner by other members of the family, particularly, the elders. Domestic labour, though assigned to females in the family was shared by many making it less time-consuming and hard to complete.
Industrialization saw the genesis of the nuclear family which invented a private space for individuals and also a clear cut labour division between man and woman. When industrial labour became the income source for a major chunk of the population, the lifestyle based on agricultural labour had to go through a transformation.
Nuclear family system was the most convenient system to control and maintain a labour force. Thus, the evolution of the nuclear family had an economic and social cause, often sidelined by the self-styled spokespersons of the nuclear family. It was this new family structure that erased all traces of gender democracy from the structure of a co-resident system.
One of the common definitions of a nuclear family is that “a nuclear family consists of mother, father, and dependent children, living as a household, with the man as the economic provider, and the woman as the primary carer in the domestic sphere.”(Abbot et al. 2005, p.6). The definition relates to the division of labour, economic dependence of women, un-paid and unaccounted domestic work being the responsibility of women and also care and parenting being the sole obligation of the female adult. This household gives it’s male members the comfort of being taken care of. A same household is a place of unending and unpaid drudgery for the women involved.
A more comprehensive definition which underscores the role of nuclear family as a sexual, reproductive, economic and legal entity states that, “Modern family consists of two adults and at least one child who is the biological offspring of the two adults. the couple were married before they had children. All parental and marital tasks were performed exclusively by the married couple. and family members belonged to only one nuclear family and had boundaries that had legally, geographically and biologically explicit ( Elkind, 1995, p.27). The boundaries mentioned in this definition exclude the outside world and at the same time imprison the member who is forced to stay back to do the domestic scores.