Family Functioning in the South African lndian Community
Mental Health professionals working in the field of family
therapy usually hold an implicit if not explicit view of the characteristics
of the normal family, which underlies their assessment of
the families which enter therapy. Studies such as The Si/en/
Majori1y (Westley & Epstein, 1969) and the Timbcrlawn family
study by Beavers and colleagues have established a model of the
ways in which optimal or effective families function (Lewis el al,
1976). In the 1/andbook of Famili• Therapy (Gurman &
Kniskern, 1981 ), leading family th era pis ts describe not only their
own theoretical paradigms of problematic families, but also their
views of normal family functioning.
Most of the literature on normal family functioning is based
on either Anglo-American experiences or European models.
What then arc the guidelines for the practitioner who is working
within the South African community'/ Should it be accepted that
South African Indian families who enter therapy are similar to
their European and American counterparts? Current literature
on the South African Indian family is sparse but what there is
concludes that these families are in transition. The joint or
extended family is no longer the norm: it is being superseded by
the western nuclear family model. Research reports on housing,
socio-economic studies and studies of family fission (Jithoo,
1975) all point to the predominance of nuclear family patterns.