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family functional and productive vs. dysfunctional and psychologically disruptive? Researchers in the fields of life span and family development have found a number of factors that can enhance the stability of the family and, therefore the secure and sound upbringing of the children. When some of these factors are missing or not handled correctly, the youth can develop low self-esteem. This can lead to a wide range of personal and social problems. I am a 27-year-old male with an 18-year-old brother. Despite the fact that there was a great deal of time between our births, our parents provided us with a strong, healthy and loving childhood by providing the support needed to personally succeed.
One of the earliest family developmental professionals was Urie Bronfenbrenner. Three decades ago, he stated: "The human family is the most powerful, the most humane, and by far the most economical system known for making and keeping human beings human." Bronfenbrenner has noted five key principles for raising healthy children (Haimowitz, 1973, p. 37-54.)
The first is often the most difficult for parents, but essentially the most important. They have to take care of their own psychological and physical needs, so they can limit their stress and be able to deal with the challenges presented to them by their children and family as a whole. My parents often spent time with friends and other family members, as well as talking with each other about their personal and work difficulties so these would impact my brother and I as little as possible.
Once a parent sheds some of his/her stress, it is much easier to "nurture their children," Bronfenbrenner stated. A child must be loved and cherished in order to develop self-esteem and the ability to become an independent caring individual. Although my parents would sometimes say things they probably would have liked to take back, on the whole they gave us positive support and always let it be known that we were respected for being ourselves. However, they did not praise too much -- we also learned our weaknesses and had to make some tough decisions.
This leads into the third principle of "guiding children," which is much different than telling them what to do. In some cases, especially when it concerns safety, parents have to be adamant -- for example, my folks would not let my brother and I ride our bikes on the busy street. In other situations, however, it is helpful to have the adults give guidance rather than tell their children exactly what to do or not to do. Guiding parents teach by example, set specific parameters, and involve children in limit-setting and other processes based on their chronological age. This means having a knowledge of what is appropriate at various stages of child development.
Bronfenbrenner stated that children need an "irrational relationship" with parents: They require mothers and fathers who think the world of them and feel they are better than any other kids. This "irrational" love is demonstrated in being a strong advocate for one's child, even if no one else agrees. A number of times, my parents would talk to our teachers -- especially when we received a note or call about something in class -- and work with the teachers to see what could be done to resolve the situation. My folks went into the meetings with an open mind, not already biased against us.
Lastly, a child needs to be motivated. he/she has to be given positive reinforcement about his/her particular talents, yet persuaded to go the next steps and enhance ability even more. I remember one time when I wanted to try out for an enrichment class and had to do a special assignment. I became frustrated and felt like quitting. My mom said, "I don't care if you write the assignment in crayons, you need to finish what you started." After much agony, I completed the project and was proud of my results.
Sigmund Freud developed the idea that children go through similar stages before coming adults. Eric Erikson (Coles, 1970, p. 128-131) followed this idea with his personality theory, which stipulated eight stages (five before adulthood) that individuals go through for development as adults. Future problems can occur if the parents do not fulfill their required responsibilities at each step: The first stage, infancy or the oral-sensory stage, is the first year or year and a half of life. The task is to develop trust. If parents can give the newborn a degree of familiarity, consistency, and continuity, then the child will develop the feeling that the world is a safe place to be and that people are reliable and loving. If parents are unreliable or they reject the infant or harm it, then the child will develop mistrust.
The second is the anal-muscular stage of early childhood, from about eighteen months to three or four years old. The task is to achieve a degree of autonomy while minimizing shame and doubt. If the mother and father permit the toddler to explore and manipulate the environment, he/she will develop a sense of independence. Or, it is easy for the child to develop a sense of shame if parents come down hard on any attempt to explore. Stage three is the genital-locomotor step or play age. From three or four to five or six, the task is to learn initiative without too much guilt. This means taking on responsibilities, learning new skills, feeling purposeful. Parents can encourage initiative by supporting children to try out their ideas. If children are not held accountable when trying something new, they will feel guilty and have difficulty in the future doing the same. Stage four is the latency stage, or the school-age child from about six to twelve. The goal is to develop a capacity for industry while avoiding inferiority. The desire for too little or too much industry makes youth's fearful of taking chances or adults when still young.
Stage five is adolescence, beginning with puberty and ending around 18- or 20- years old. The task is to achieve ego identity and avoid role confusion. It was adolescence that interested Erikson most, and the patterns he saw here were the basis for his thinking about all the other stages. Ego development means knowing how one fits into the rest of society. It requires that a person takes everything learned about life and mold it into a unified self-image, one that your community finds meaningful. Without these things, the individual is likely to see role confusion, meaning an uncertainty about one's place in society and the world. When an adolescent is confronted by role confusion, Erikson says he/she is suffering from an identity crisis. In fact, adolescents commonly question: "Who am I?"
When I went through puberty, I was unsure of myself as many boys that age are. Although I rebelled, my parents helped me find my strong points and further develop my self-esteem. I got through that period all right, as a result. My brother had a difficult time last year, as a senior in high school, because he did not know what to study in college. My parents helped him realize that he still had time to make important decisions such as this, and may even want to wait a year before going to the university.
A number of other family therapists have also developed stage theories, which have both positive and negative ramifications. For example, these steps can be too confining. Looking at only certain aspects of the family and discarding others. Early stage theories had structure that effectively issued "rules" about what constituted a family task in a particular stage and how it could be deemed accomplished. Newer theories, however, are more definitions and offered transition periods between stages. On the positive side, these stage theories provide a foundation and a consistency of vocabulary and approach among researchers. Terms such as "teething stage" and "toileting stage" and "tantrum stage" are quickly identified
Duvall and Hill (1945), for example, developed the eight-stage model that included these stages: 1) Married couples (no children); 2) Childbearing families (oldest child aged birth to 30 months); 3) Families with preschool children (oldest child aged 21/2 to 6 years); 4) Families with school children (oldest child aged 6 to 13 years); 5) Families with teenagers (oldest child aged 13 to 20 years); 6) Families launching young adults (stage oldest child leaves to youngest child leaves home); 7) Middle-aged parents (empty nest to start of retirement) and 8) Aging family members (spouses' retirement to deaths)
This eight-stage model was the basis for many years and led to additional stage models, some to offer corrections.
Over the years, my family regularly discovered the importance of communication. This included confining in each other, not telling lies or keeping things secret and opening ourselves up to positive criticism. According to such professionals as Galvin and Brommel (1996, p. 413) family communication provides a framework for analyzing the family as a communication system. It…[continue]
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