A joint family in very simple terms is a family consisting of at least three generations living together under the same roof. Usually the family is headed by the oldest male and all the men in the family are related by birth. More often than not, it consists of grand-parents, their sons and their son's families. It also might consist of the unmarried / widowed daughters.
Joint families have their advantages and dis-advantages like anything else. If harmonious, it is an ideal support system financially and emotionally for the aging parents, young kids who learn to share and get love and attention from grand-parents, parents and uncles and aunts and for working mothers without the worries of day-care. However, if there is conflict due to several people of
different temperaments and viewpoints trying to dictate the day-to-day routines or major decisions, or due to different earning powers of the different members of the family or unhealthy sibling rivalries and competition exist, then living in a joint family can be very stressful and almost impossible.
Families that believe in free expression, the need for compromises and adjustments and a readiness to putting family good ahead of individual good thrive. The system was highly popular in India for as far as can be remembered but is fast losing its charm and prevalence as more and more kids are moving farther from their homes for better job opportunities and as more of the "nuclear family" mind-set sets in.
All families whether joint or nuclear survive only if there is mutual respect, a feeling of sacrifice for the family, and control on egoistic tendencies by all individuals involved. Nuclear families give lot more freedom and lot less need to make compromises, but joint families give immense and immeasurable financial, emotional and physical support to all generations involved. If there is mutual respect and love, willingness to communicate freely and civilly and
the elders show enough flexibility to accept changes that come with
time and the younger family members show willingness to gain from
their parents' real life experiences, joint families can be very beneficial for individuals and for the whole society. No parent would need to look for old-age homes and no kid for outside nannies or impersonal day care facilities. "I", "me", "myself" can be easily replaced by "we", "us" and "ours" and maybe lead to less broken families.