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:
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.
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).
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).
number of one-parent families have become more common in recent years.
There are a number of varieties of one-parent families; those resulting
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
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).
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).
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
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
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).
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).
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).
number of grandparents rearing grandchildren has increased over the past
decade. "Usually, grandparents step in because of substance
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).