Learning objectives

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After students have read and studied the material in this chapter, they should be able to answer the following questions:
1. How is the family viewed by the family systems theory? How do individual family systems change? How have families in general changed during the 20th century?
2. How is the father/infant relationship similar to and different from the mother/infant relationship?
3. What are two basic dimensions of parenting? What patterns of child rearing emerge from these dimensions? How do these parenting styles affect children's development?
4. How do social class, culture, and ethnic variations affect parenting style?
5. What effects do children have on their parents?
6. What features characterize sibling relationships across the life span? How do siblings contribute to development?
7. What are relationships like between adolescents and their parents?
8. What is the typical pattern of marital satisfaction? What factors impact marital satisfaction in adulthood?
9. What types of relationships are found between young and old adulthood?
10. What sorts of diversity exist in today's families? What is the life satisfaction of people in these different types of families?
11. How does divorce affect family relationships?
12. How does family violence influence relationships? How can spouse abuse and child abuse be reduced?
I. Understanding the family

A. The family as a system

1. family systems theory-- family as “whole” made up of interconnected parts each

affecting the other

a. beyond traditional emphasis on mother-child relationship

1. Nuclear family-- two generation system (i.e., father/mother/child(ren))

a. reciprocal influence-- each members influences all others

i. combinations of influences are mother-child, father-child, mother-


ii. parenting affects marital relationship with affects infant

development with affects both parenting and marital


2. Extended family household-- nuclear family system plus other kin (e.g.,

grandparents, aunts/uncles)

a. more common in cultures outside the United States

b. more common in African American and Hispanic American families

B. The family as a system within other systems

1. Ecological approach (Bronfenbrenner)-- must take into account many levels of

the environment

a. the family does not live in a vacuum and is embedded in larger context of

cultures of neighborhood, city, and country

C. The family as a changing system

1. Family best defined as dynamic, developing system

a. family life cycle-- sequence of changes in composition, role and

relationships within family over time

b. stages of family life cycle

i. married without children

ii. childbearing family

iii. family with preschool children

iv. family with school-age children

v. family with teenagers

vi. family launching young adults

vii. family without children

viii. aging family

D. A changing family system in a changing world

1. More single adults

2. Postponed marriages

3. Fewer children

4. More women working

5. More divorce

6. More single-parent families

7. More children living in poverty

8. More remarriages and reconstituted families

a. reconstituted families—includes step-parent and/or step-siblings

9. More years without children

10. More multigenerational families

a. beanpole family-- multiple generations in same household

i. traditional in many cultures but uncommon in United States

11. Roles played but mothers and fathers more similar than in the past

12. Great increase in diversity of family types

a. once “traditional” nuclear family now minority among family types
II. The infant

A. The mother/infant relationship and the father/infant relationship

1. Fathers are as capable of caring for infants as mothers

2. Mothers and fathers differ in both quantity and quality of interactions with


a. mothers tend to spend more quantity of time with children

i. mother spend less time on housework

ii. result is smaller families

b. mothers and fathers typical styles are qualitatively different

i. mothers tend to spend time caregiving (e.g., food, changing diapers)

ii. mothers spend more time teaching

iii. fathers spend more time in playful interactions (e.g., tickling,


iv. fathers also tend to contribute more financially

v. fathers acceptance or rejection of children may be more critical to

child’s mental health than mothers acceptance/rejection

B. Mothers, fathers, and infants: The system at work

1. Parents also have indirect effect-- in which effect on child involves parent

influence on third party who in turn influences child

2. Children benefit when parents are both mutually supportive and responsive

III. The child

A. Parenting style

1. Dimensions of child rearing

a. acceptance/responsiveness-- extent of parents’ support, sensitivity to needs, warmth and praise

b. demandingness/control (permissive/demanding)—amount of control

parents have over decisions

c. four patterns (based on crossing two dimensions above)

i. authoritarian parenting-- highly restrictive with expectations for strict obedience, low acceptance/responsiveness

ii. authoritative parenting-- parents establish and explain rules, listen to their children, and are flexible

iii. permissive parenting-- parents make few demands and exert little control over children

iv. neglectful parenting-- parents uninvolved in upbringing

b. child outcomes associated with patterns

i. best outcomes from warmth combined with moderate parental control (authoritative)

ii. worst outcomes from uninvolved parents (neglectful)

iii. “love and limits” best combination

2. Social class, economic hardship, and parenting

a. class differences (lower and working-class versus middle and upper-class)

associated with differences in parenting styles

i. different goals and values

ii. lower and working-class tend to stress obedience and respect

iii. lower and working-class tend to be more authoritarian

iv. lower and working-class tend to reason with children less


v. lower and working-class tend to show less warmth/affection

vi. differences may be due to different skills required for success

(e.g., obedience to boss)

vii. lower and working-class may be under more stress (especially


4. Cultural and ethnic variation in parenting

a. Authoritative style associated with positive outcomes in most groups

b. Differences in beliefs and values still lead to some differences in

parenting style and outcomes

5. Child effects on parents

a. Parenting style changes, for example, in response to child’s age, competence, and temperament

B. Models of influence in the family

1. Parent effects model-- assumption that parent’s action causes child

a. possible that child’s behavior impacts parents style

2. Child effects model

a. child effects model-- assumption that child’s action influences parenting


i. difficult children may cause parents to reject of harshly rule

children (authoritarian style)

ii. “good” children less in need of harsh parental involvement

iii. research on boys with conduct disorders found that their behavior

did appear to influence parenting behavior

3. Transactional model-- hypothesis that parents and children influence each other

at fairly equal levels
a. includes potential impact of genes on behavior of both parents and


b. studies controlling genetic effect show that parenting style is critical

C. Sibling relationships

1. A new baby arrives

a. mothers pay less attention to other children

b. children become more demanding

c. decreases security of attachment in older children

d. reduction of family resources can negatively impact children with siblings

e. parents need to guard against ignoring older children following birth of


2. Ambivalence in sibling relationships

a. sibling rivalry-- competition, jealousy, and resentment between siblings

i. common and normal reaction

b. level of sibling conflict tends to decrease in early adolescence c. personalities and parenting behaviors affect sibling relationships

d. best summary of sibling relationships is one of ambivalence (both

closeness and conflict)

3. Contributions to development

a. emotional support of siblings is important

i. siblings often confide in others

b. caretaking (babysitting) services of siblings impact development

c. older siblings serve as teachers

IV. The adolescent

A. Continuity in the parent-child relationship

1. Adolescent-parent relationships similar to child-parent relationships

2. Most adolescents respect parents and hold positive attitudes toward family

3. Adolescents from different ethnic groups tend to differ in terms of desire for


B. Renegotiating the relationship

1. Task of achieving autonomy-- capacity to make independent decisions and

manage own life

2. Conflicts temporarily increase; parents turn over more power

3. At the same time, adolescents try to maintain attachment with parents

4. Achievement, autonomy, well adjusted behavior found in adolescents whose

parents set reasonable goals and monitor their children’s behavior
V. The adult

A. Establishing the marriage

1. Most adults in the United States marry (95%)

2. Is a significant life transition with new roles

3. Honeymoon is short-lived and satisfaction tends to decline

4. Some experience drop in satisfaction after around a decade after marriage “seven

year itch”

5. Build up of conflict over time is not common pattern

B. New parenthood

1. Stressful transition with both positive and negative changes

a. marital satisfaction declines, especially for women

b. individual differences in adjustment to parenthood

i. the event makes a difference, irritable or unhealthy babies create

biggest stress

ii. personal resources key, some better equipped to handle stress

and have good problem-solving skills

iii. those with realistic expectations with children better off

iv. resources a key, including spouse support, and availability of

other support systems

C. The child-rearing family

1. Additional children create added strain on the family

2. Additional challenges when kids become teenagers

a. may increase sense of midlife crisis

b. parents who are insecure may have harder time letting go of teens

3. Slight decline in marital satisfaction continues

D. The empty nest-- describe point at which last child departs family

1. Parents generally respond positively to children leaving home

a. sign that they have done a good job

2. Make result in some increase in marital satisfaction

3. Most children not “totally launched” and remain in contact with parents

4. refilling-- launched child returns to family (often at young adult) can be stressful

for parents

5. Parenting both a positive and negative event

E. Grandparenthood

1. Styles of grandparenting (Cherlin and Furstenberg)

a. remote-- only occasionally seen, emotionally and geographically distant

b. companionate-- frequently seen, shared activities with grandchildren,

rarely involved in parenting issues

c. involved-- assumed parent-like involvement often giving advice

i. some actually act as parents to grandchildren

2. Most grandparents see grandchildren often and gain pleasure from these


3. Grandparents often needed in times of crisis (e.g., pregnancy of granddaughter)

4. Grandparent-grandchild relationship highly influenced by grandparent-parent


5. Factors like geographic distance and grandparenting style determine quality of


F. Changing family relationships

1. The marital relationship

a. dips and recoveries in marital satisfaction, more so for women

b. quality of relationship for women negatively affected by perceive

inequity in share of work within family

c. overall usually marital quality stable (but hard to predict actual


d. frequency of intercourse declines and intimacy increases

e. life cycle ends with widowhood

f. serious health problems with spouse can negatively affect satisfaction

g. marital relationship central to adult development

2. Sibling relationships

a. decreased contact, less conflict than during childhood

b. more closeness but many relationships remain ambivalent

c. adult sibling relationship vary greatly

3. Parent-child relationships

a. forming more mutual relationships

i. middle age daughters often form relationship with their mothers

ii. many ethnic minority groups (e.g., African American, Hispanic

American) often have better relationships with elderly parents

than European Americans

iii. most elderly no abandoned by family

iv. modified extended family-- nuclear family maintaining close ties

with other kin

v. common believe of role reversal (parent being dependent on

children) in late adulthood, but appears to be a myth

b. caring for aging parents

i. middle generation squeeze-- middle aged adults experiencing heavy demands from young and older generation

ii. caregiver burden-- psychological distress from caring for someone with impairments

iii. not all caregivers feel burden from care

iv. caregiver worse if caregiver daughter unmarried

v. helping out of love is a lot less stressful than helping out of sense

of obligation

VI. Diversity in family life

A. Singles

1. Cohabitation-- living together as step to marriage

a. many cohabitating couples have children

b. couples who cohabitate and then marry often more dissatisfied with


2. stereotype that single adult as lonely an maladjusted unsupported

B. Childless married couples

1. Childless couples often have high marital satisfaction

2. Elderly widows without children may find themselves without needed supports

in adulthood

C. Dual-career families

1. Spillover effects-- when workplace events impact home life and vice versa

a. can undermine work effectiveness

b. can be positive if rewarding family life helps individual cope with work


2. Overall dual-career families doing well

3. Latchkey children-- children care for themselves while parents work

a. most latchkey kids fair alright

b. latchkey kids can get into trouble if they lack supervision

D. Gay and lesbian families

1. Very diverse group

2. Gay and lesbian couples very similar to heterosexual couples

a. division of labor

b. pattern of marital satisfaction

c. children not more likely to become homosexual

E. Families experiencing divorce

1. Before the divorce

a. marital distress, trial separations

b. women tend to initiate breakup

2. After the divorce: Crisis and reorganization

a. emotional distress

b. higher risk for depression and health problems

c. distressed parents can cause disturbance of parent-child relations

d. child-parent strain may spill over to child-peer relationships

e. most problems disappear a couple of years post-divorce, but affects can

carry over into adulthood

i. increased risk of divorce when child in divorced family marries

f. fighting in front of kids before marriage may decrease negative

consequences experienced after divorce (kids know that something

may be coming)

F. Remarriage and reconstituted families

1. 75% of divorced people remarry

2. Can be period of conflict and disruption for children

a. conflict aggravated if step-siblings involved
VII. The problem of family violence

A. Child abuse very visible form of family violence

1. Abuse can come in many forms parent-child, child-parent, child-child

2. Elderly also at risk for abuse (especially when frail or impaired)

B. Why does family violence occur?

1. The abuser (risk factors)

a. poverty

b. young mothers

c. lack of support from others

d. being a former victim of abuse

e. current victim of abuse in other relationship

f. insecure and low sense of self-esteem

g. unrealistic expectations about children

2. The abused (risk factors)

a. typically one child per family singled out

b. child is not to blame

c. child has disability or illness

3. The context (risk factors)

a. parent under stress (e.g., lost job) and has little support

b. neighborhood culture (e.g., poor. Transient, lack community services)

c. macroenvironment (e.g., violent society)

C. What are the effects of family violence

1. Impact can involve physical damage to brain or other parts of the body

2. Abuse can involve lack of intellectual stimulation

3. Can lead to emotional problems

4. Social skills may be negatively affected

5. May lead to abuse of others

145 Chapter 15

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