The role of women in society has been traditionally that of a «dependent»—first on parents, then on husbands and later on the sons. The women in India assists her mother in her early childhood; after marriage, her role is that of wife and mother. The traditional functions of the family are the transmission of culture, child care, marriage and family relations.
The family is the most important socialising agency. The task of promoting the healthy development of the child falls on the shoulders of the parents, especially the mother, who provides an atmosphere of acceptance, love and encouragement to set up and strengthen the child’s self-image. Rural women in 1972 were found to be more authoritarian in disciplining children. Scolding, threatening and physical punishment were found to be more common methods of disciplining them. Today, mothers feel a child thrives better on warmth, both mental and physical. They adopt mostly democratic methods of disciplining. Educated mothers are better at adopting positive disciplinary techniques.
Traditionally, among the Hindus, Indian marriage was possible within the framework of the caste system only. The attitude of the educated middle-class woman has, however, begun to change and they seem less bound by the constraints laid down by traditional patterns of marriage. There is increasing approval of inter-caste marriages among the educated middle-class people.
There is evidence that modern women in India are more in favour of arranged marriages than they were 10 years ago. Although the ideology of romantic love marriage has gained popularity in Indian society and is regarded as a panacea by many social reformers for freeing Indian society from the stranglehold of the caste system, the vast majority of the people, both educated and uneducated, continue to conform to the traditional pattern of the arranged Indian marriage.
Child marriage has played havoc with the physical and mental health of Indian girls. There is considerable improvement in this position in the cities and among high caste families. However, child marriages still continue to be solemnised in rural areas and in the backwards sections of the city population. The education of women in India has tended to raise the age of Indian marriage and lower the birth rate.
Although educational and occupational opportunities are providing women in India with the new role of women in society, their social position in the family remains largely unchanged because the system of arranged Indian marriage confirms the authority of caste norms and the obligation of conformity to the traditional image of woman as wife and mother. Attitudes towards marrying a widower/widow or divorcee and attitudes towards sex, pre-marital sex and sexual freedom have been changing gradually.
The percentage of widow second marriage increased as the educational level and socio-economic status of the widow improved. The favourable attitude towards widow second marriage is seen more among the educated and the working women in India.