Is A Nuclear Family Better For Couples?

New-Age Couples | | , Copywriter & Author
Updated On: August 1, 2022
is a nuclear family better

Is a nuclear family better for a couple who is just beginning their love together and finding a rhythm to their relationship? The nuclear family vs extended family debate has raged on for decades, and there are no absolute right or wrong answers to this question. While being with the extended family brings endless love, joy, and laughter, more and more couples are starting to think that a nuclear family is better for their marriage and relationship. How is that? Let’s find out.

An extended family brings together a large group of people, of different ages, dispositions, and outlooks. While it’s all very well to enjoy the company of loved ones over an occasional meal or during the holidays, cohabitating with them day in and day out is another ball game altogether, one that comes with its own set of challenges. This is particularly true for new couples who need their personal space to figure out their relationship dynamics.

So, is a nuclear family better than an extended family? A lot of couples seem to think so. Why is that exactly? What are the benefits of a nuclear family? Let’s find out.

What Does Nuclear Family Mean?

With time, the concept of a nuclear family has made the tradition of living with the extended family after marriage archaic. To understand why that is, you first need to address another question: what is the difference between a nuclear family and an extended family? In the answer, you can find the nuclear family meaning.

An extended family is a collection unit comprising different generations and branches of a family tree. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins come together to form the extended family. In various cultures, especially in the Middle East and Asia, extended families living together under the same roof has been the norm. By contrast, a nuclear family is a small fragment of the extended family that is more closely knit in their relationship and connection with one another.

Think of it in terms of a Venn Diagram, where one half is your family – parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, their spouses, and children – and the other your spouse’s. These are extended families, and the part that overlaps – you, your spouse, and children, if any – is a nuclear family.

The nuclear family sociology perspective also defines it similarly. It consists of a small group of people with united ties. Typically, the adults in such a family are married. So instead of the larger extended family, a nuclear family consists of just you, your partner, and your kids. Now whether it sounds liberating or isolating varies from person to person, couple to couple.

For most, it may an ideal arrangement that gives them the independence to build a life they want, for some, it can also be a lonely experience There are several pros and cons of a nuclear family, let’s explore what they are to understand why it is becoming the preferred living arrangement for couples not just in the West but across cultures.

Related Reading: Living With Criticism From The In-laws

Benefits Of A Nuclear Family

Is a nuclear family better than an extended family? If you have been contemplating this, a look up close at the many benefits of a nuclear family can give you clarity on why this is the best arrangement, particularly for newly married couples who often have to contend with first-year marriage problems before they can adjust and synchronize with each other’s needs, desires, and expectations.

benefits of a nuclear family
Living with the spouse’s extended family can be stressful for women

In the cultures where extended families living jointly have been the norm, the idea of nuclear family is still frowned upon to a certain degree. However, if you take a close look at the pros and cons of a nuclear family, you’d see that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. But how exactly and why is a nuclear family better, you ask? Here are some top benefits of a nuclear family:

  • Fewer conflicts: There are fewer conflicts between couples in nuclear families, as external stressors such as strained relationships with other members of the family do not loom over a couple’s bond
  • Better intimacy: Away from the prying eyes of extended family members, a couple has a better chance at fostering different types of intimacy and create a bond that can stand the test of time
  • Greater independence: Be it deciding whether to cook on Saturday evening or order in or where to invest in real estate, a couple has more freedom to make decisions that work best for them
  • Happier familial bonds: The benefits of a nuclear family also extend to the quality of relationships within the extended family. When you meet occasionally, there is more warmth and less drama. This can lead to stronger familiar bonds

Related Reading: Sacrificing In A Relationship – When, What And How Much?

Why is a nuclear family better for more and more couples today

Apart from the lack of space and independence, the concept of living with the extended family also puts a lot of strain on the women of the household, which inevitably translates into marital conflict. A single slip-up and she will be judged, termed ‘incompetent’ and even reprimanded in front of everyone. Every move of the daughter-in-law is under strict scrutiny and each word she utters translates into a different interpretation.

If a man stands up for his spouse, the sentiments of the elders are hurt. He is expected to be on “their team” and the woman forever remains an outsider in the household. Every aspect of a couple’s dynamics is under scrutiny in an extended family setup, leaving little room for their bond to flourish as they’d have liked.

For instance, if the family values are deeply rooted in traditional gender roles, the man is likely to be ridiculed or branded henpecked for helping his spouse with household chores like cooking, cleaning, or doing the dishes. Needless to say, these niggling everyday issues can trigger deep-seated resentment in a marriage. All of this can be avoided if a couple chooses to stay independently and raise a nuclear family.

For anyone wondering, “Why is a nuclear family better than an extended family?”, the difference in the dynamics of the two can present the answer. This is not to say that couples who live independently don’t have their share of issues but, at least, those are not induced by external factors.

Nuclear family more conducive to the goals of younger couples

A spouse who supports you in shouldering financial responsibility deserves the same kind of privileges that every breadwinner enjoys. Alas, it remains a pipe dream for many newlyweds in the extended family set up and the only way to avoid the daily scrutiny and relationship arguments is to move out.

However, living separately doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on the family. A couple can still support their parents and grandparents financially as well as maintain a good relationship with them by spending quality time together. This middle path keeps the family together, despite not ‘dining together’.

Yes, there are disadvantages to a nuclear family where you feel like you might grow distant from your parents, or feel lonely. Then, there is also the question, “Is nuclear family better for a child?” Given that they say that it takes a village to raise a child, parenting can prove to be much more challenging for couples living alone. However, cohabitation with the extended family isn’t the only solution to this. With the right support system, a couple can overcome challenges of parenting even while living independently.

Key Pointers

  • Cohabitating with the extended family has been the norm in many cultures
  • However, it may be archaic and out of tune with the changing couple dynamics in new-age relationships
  • Nuclear family can be a far more comfortable choice for young couples
  • Benefits of a nuclear family include independence, freedom and space to build a relationship free of external stressors

Pop culture too reflects the fact that parents can sometimes become a hindrance to their kids’ growth and well-being without realizing it. The current trend of nuclear families finds its roots in similar experiences of seeking a middle path, though the couples might not admit the truth.

“We just wanted our own space” is a justifiably honest response and the most prudent decision to let relationships thrive in such intolerant times. So if you also think that a nuclear family is better, you have nothing to feel guilty about.

PS: The writer of this article has just moved into a new home with his wife because ‘they want their own space’.


1. Is a nuclear family better than an extended family?

There are indeed many benefits of the nuclear family but at the end of the day, it boils down to a personal choice. It is not our place to tell you that a nuclear family is better but for you to decide whether you want to enjoy the love and bustle of a happening extended family or if you need your personal space.

2. Is the nuclear family still the most common?

It is starting to become a common phenomenon across cultures now. There are many benefits of a nuclear family and more and more couples are starting to recognize that and embrace this family unit.

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