Socialisation within the Family  
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Family Types 


Children's growing competence and development is largely influenced by family life and family relationships. Children's well-being continues to depend on the quality of family interactions. 

Children of today are growing up in a variety of households and different family systems. A number of these different families will be examined: 
 
 

Only child families
Large families
Single parent families
Blended families
Gay & Lesbian parent families
Adoptive parent families
Grandparent families
 

Family type plays an integral role in children's development. Family theories outline the interactions which occur between family members. For more information on the theories of families, click on the link below. 
 
 

Family Theories
 

Only child families 

Many couples are now choosing to have children who will never have any siblings. Literature suggests that these children are often viewed as being spoilt, selfish, lonely and maladjusted, however, research does not agree with this negative view. Only children appear to be bright and successful, self-confident, self-reliant, resourceful and popular with other children. "A major reason for this may be that only children have somewhat closer relationships with parents, who exert more pressure for mastery and accomplishment" (Berk, 1996, Pg 505).  Only children often have more pressure placed upon them by parents to excel in tasks and have often high expectations for school and sporting results placed upon them. Only children miss out on the growing and learning and forms of socialisation which comes with having siblings. Only children have the advantage of not having to fight for their parents attention and may have the opportunity of more one-on-one interactions. The one-child family has both pros and cons, as does every family lifestyle (Berk 2000, Papalia & Olds 1995). 

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Large families 

Children of large families obviously experience different conditions from those in smaller or one child families. Children in larger families have the advantage of having relationships with siblings. These relationships and interactions gives them the opportunity to have companionship, emotional support and assistance while they are growing up. Children in larger families often experience degrees of rivalry and may need to fight for parents attention. The positive interactions that occur between siblings contribute to perspective taking, moral maturity, and competence in relating to other children (Berk 2000). 

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Single parent families 

The number of one-parent families have become more common in recent years. There are a number of varieties of one-parent families; those resulting from divorce, parents who never-married, as well as a widowed parent. In single parent families the other parent not living with the family may have little or no involvement in the child's life or may be highly involved. We are going to look more closely at single divorced parents and never-married single parents. 
 

Single divorced parent families 

The largest percentage of single-parent families are headed by divorced female parents. "The assumption has been made that the trauma from divorce is likely to result in poorly socialised, cognitively deficient children who experience poor parent-child relationships" (Hammer & Turnover, 1990, Pg 194). In many situations this may be the case but no relationship can be generalised. "Research has also been undertaken on healthy single-parent families where it was found, in general, that the physical and mental health of the children appeared to be good" (Hammer & Turnover, 1990, Pg 194). It has been suggested that children living with their mothers are more healthy than those living with fathers.  The majority of children show improved adjustments by 2 years after divorce. Yet for a few, persisting emotional distress and declines in school achievement still exist (Berk 2000, Hammer & Turnover 1990). 
 

Never-married single parent families 

It is believed that a cultural shift towards later marriage has contributed to a rise in never-married motherhood. "It has been thought that children in these kinds of families are shielded from marital strife, children of never-married mothers show slightly better academic performance and emotional adjustments than do children of divorced or remarried mothers. But they do not do as well as children in first marriage families compared with children of two parent  reared families" (Berk, 2000, Pg 577). Although compared with children of two parent families, these children may experience less attention, difficulties in interactions with other children, a lack in school performance and behaviours associated with the lack of a male parental influence (Berk 2000, Hammer & Turnover 1990). 
 

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Blended families 

The blended family is one in which either parent brings with them children from a previous marriage. "For some children, this expanded family network is a positive turn of events that brings with it greater adult attention. But for most, it presents difficult adjustments" (Berk, 2000, Pg 581). It is clear that there are many difficulties in accepting a step-parent into the family, especially one who may have different child rearing practices, from which the child is used to. Research has found that children of remarriage are likely to experience difficulty in accepting the marriage. This extends from some children having to - deal with the loss of a primary parent to acceptance of a new one. Other feelings experienced may include divided loyalties, confusion in terms of belonging, confusion due to membership in two households and unreasonable expectations due to  the whole adjustment process. But how well children adapt is related to the overall quality of family functioning (Berk 2000, Hammer & Turnover 1990, Papalia & Olds 1995). 
 

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Gay and Lesbian parent families 

A larger percentage of the homosexual population are rearing children. The actual number of homosexual, or gay parents is not known. Families headed by a homosexual parent or gay or lesbian couple are very similar to those of heterosexuals. "Gay and lesbian parents are committed to and effective at the parental role.  Some research indicates that gay fathers are more consistent in setting limits and more responsive to their children's needs than are heterosexual fathers" (Berk, 2000, Pg 576). In lesbian families quality of mother-child interaction is as positive as in heterosexual families. It has been found that children of lesbian mothers regard their mothers partner as very much a parent. "Overall, children of homosexuals can be distinguished from other children only by issues related to living in a non-supportive society. The great concern of gay and lesbian parents is that their children will be stigmatised by their parents sexual orientation" (Berk, 2000, Pg 577). 
 

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Adoptive parent families 

There are a number of different reasons for the emergence of adoptive parent families. Other than partners being infertile, there are situations where parents don't want to risk passing on a genetic disorder, or who are older and single but want a family. Limited numbers of healthy babies are available for adoption in Australia and because of this more people are adopting from foreign countries. Adoptive families cannot be categorised as they are all very highly diverse, and each family can face a multitude of common challenges. "Different heredity means that adoptive parents and children are less alike in intelligence and personality than are biological relatives - resemblances that can contribute to family harmony" (Berk, 2000, Pg 575). All adopted children and adolescents - whether born in a foreign country or the country of their adoptive parents experience some degree of emotional stress. Feelings include those of abandonment and not knowing exactly where their origins are. "Adoption is a satisfying family alternative for most parents and children who experience it. The outcomes are usually good because of careful pairing of children with parents and guidance provided to adoptive families" (Berk, 2000, Pg 576) 
 

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Grandparent reared families 

The number of grandparents rearing grandchildren has increased over the past decade. "Usually, grandparents step in because of substance abuse, emotional problems, or physical illness prevents the child's parents, most often the mother, from engaging in competent child rearing" (Berk, 2000, Pg 584). This situation can cause a lot of emotional distress for both the child, adjusting to a new situation and for the grandparents who have been suddenly placed into a child-rearing situation. "Previous family experiences have left their mark, in the form of high rates of learning difficulties, depression, and anti-social behaviour" (Berk, 2000, Pg 584). Children in this environment usually receive a lot of love and also experience the required parental guidance (Berk 2000). 
 

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