Changing Family Structure
Susan C. Seymour, Women, Family, and Child Care in India -A World in Transition, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
The book under review deals with increasing urbanisation and its impact on family structures in the expanding city of Bhubaneswar. Seymour has studied these changes in a longitudinal study spread over thirty years from mid-sixties onwards. Changing family structure with a special focus on gender roles is the central theme of the book. After Independence, the city of Bhubaneshwar started expanding at a fast pace as the administrative capital of Orissa, which changed its character of being a city of temples. New buildings like the state court house, the assembly, the state travel lodge for tourists, movie theatre and educational institutions did at once put this temple town into the face of modernity. This led to increase in employment in the government offices, construction activity as well as emergence of a new elite that started moving away from their village society. Spread of education, mostly for boys though, also led to a shift in the family values. In such a milieu, the housing and living pattern became far removed from the traditional Oriya society.
Seymour has taken a sample from the old as well as the newer parts of the city with various castes duly represented. The sample population in the New Town belongs to families where the male head of the household is employed in a salaried job, more often with the government. Women are mostly housewives with a small number in teaching jobs. The cross section of castes in the old town and in the new town indicate that the better paying and the higher jobs in administration and other such occupations have been accessed by 'higher' castes. It is the clerical and the lower end unskilled jobs, which have gone to the lower castes. She brings out in a very interesting manner the emerging differences in family values in terms of collective versus individual, break up of the joint family system, emphasis on education as well as the emergence of 'working women' who do realise