Going nuclear? Family structure and young women's health in India, 1992-2006

Demography. 2013 Jun;50(3):853-80. doi: 10.1007/s13524-012-0173-1.


Scholars traditionally argued that industrialization, urbanization, and educational expansion lead to a decline in extended families and complementary rise in nuclear families. Some have suggested that such transitions are good for young married women because living in nuclear families benefits their health. However, extended families may also present advantages for young women's health that outweigh any disadvantages. Using the Indian National Family Health Survey, this article examines whether young married women living in nuclear families have better health than those in patrilocal extended families. It also examines whether young married women's living arrangements are changing over time and, if so, how such changes will affect their health. Results show that young married women living in nuclear families do not have better health than those in patrilocal extended families. Of eight health outcomes examined, only five differ significantly by family structure. Further, of the five outcomes that differ, four are patrilocal extended-family advantages and only one is a nuclear-family advantage. From 1992 to 2006, the percentage of young married women residing in nuclear families increased, although the majority remained in patrilocal extended families. This trend toward nuclear families will not benefit young women's health.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Domestic Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Maternal Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Mental Health
  • Nuclear Family*
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health*
  • Young Adult