Strong roots: Living with parents until marriage

Story by Maura Zurick  |  Video Story by Jessica Schmidt  | 


  • The two different types of families in India are nuclear families and adjoined families.
  • Women live with their parents until they get married. They then move in with their husbands.
  • Men that are part of an adjoined family live with their parents for life.
Imagine living with your parents until you get married. Now, imagine living with not just your parents and siblings, but your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as well.This is family life in India. Adjoined families are still a thriving part of Indian culture and tradition. Mafrooha Naaz said despite how difficult and infringing her relatives can be she can’t imagine living without them. Naaz, 17, of Old Delhi, India, sometimes wishes she could move out and live on her own, especially when she disagrees with her family.

“Parents can be annoying,” she said. “They interfere in decisions that I make. Whenever I try to make a decision about my life or education, I face lots of problems. My father goes to every other member of the family and asks their opinion.”

She said more often than not the result isn’t the one she wants, and that’s when she feels like it would be better if she was alone.

Naaz had the chance to go to New York to study, but her family decided it wasn’t okay for her to go, so she missed out on what she believes would have been a valuable educational experience.

Mafrooha Naaz, 17, of Old Delhi talks about what it's like to live in an adjoined family as a teenager.

Rubina Naaz, Mafrooha’s mother, said she always wants her children to have quality education, but sometimes they break her trust.

“We take pride in the fact that our husbands have the final say, and the children cannot question it,” she said.

Indian families are patriarchal in nature, meaning the eldest male is the head of the house. In adjoined families, even after a husband and wife get married, they still live with the man’s parents and brothers.

“In most cases, it’s the wife that tries to persuade the husband to leave his family and go somewhere else,” Naaz said. “There has to be an agreement among the females in the family so we can stay united.”

She said living with so many women and sharing a kitchen does cause disagreements, but the importance of staying together always trumps arguments.

Mafrooha Naaz said the family style found in the United States, where children typically move out when they are 18 years old, would never work in India. She said Indian children cannot leave their parents because they need them and rely on them for support and advice.

“It’s traditional,” she said. “Living with my parents can be hard at times because they force us to get married when we’re not ready yet. We don’t have many options; we just have to obey our parents.”

Naaz said staying together is a good thing but making decisions is an entirely different process. Any decisions or problems are handled by her father, but he usually asks the other relatives for their input.

“When I go to college or university, I will live at home with them,” she said. “Even though we disagree, they are the ones who made me who I am, so I will not leave them.”

Mafrooha's family sits together in their living room to socialize, make family decisions and pray.

With India’s growing population, adults are moving out of their parents’ house and living in smaller families. These families are called nuclear families and consist of a husband, wife and their children.

This family style is slowly replacing the larger adjoined families. Right now, nuclear families are more popular in big cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

Even in nuclear families, teenagers and young adults stay at home until they get married. In these smaller families, the children still have to obey their parents’ rules and disagreements still occur.

Harshita Makhija, 21, of Delhi, India, said she lives in a nuclear family with her mom, dad and younger brother.

She said that for both adjoined and nuclear families the meaning is the same. The idea of children being separated from their parents before they get married is unthinkable. In nuclear families, the father is the head of the house and the children must go to him for advice and permission.

Makhija said the family tradition has been going on forever and won’t end any time soon.

“In the villages they have adjoined families and in the city they have nuclear families,” she said. “Nuclear families are like four to five people, but adjoined families you have like all the uncles and aunts and grandparents staying together. In these families you can have like 20 family members staying together in one house.”

Makhija said the best part about living with her parents is always having someone to talk to and ask for advice. She said it’s nice to know that someone is waiting for her when she gets home.

“It’s really about love and affection all around the home,” Makhija said.

But Makhija said that it isn’t always easy to be an adult and still live with her parents. She still has to get permission from her father for every decision she makes. She also has abide by her parents’ rules and listen to their opinions on her life.

“The hardest part about living with my parents is there is no freedom,” she said. “I have to seek permission to go shopping, go out with friends, go out for the night. No decision can be my own.”

Makhija said the typical age for a woman to get married and move out of her parents’ home is 23 or 24 years old. She said there are very few cases of when a woman moves out before then and that it only happens if the woman is working or studying far away.

Mafrooha's sister showed her wedding dress, which is a typical style for Indian weddings.

She said the reason Indian children stay at home is because their culture does not allow them to move out.

“Personally speaking, I would love to move out and stay alone when I start working or even now when I’m doing my masters, but I don’t think my parents would be very cool with it and won’t allow me,” she said. “They wouldn’t want me to stay alone basically because of the security reasons concerning in India.”

Category: Faith, families and education