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This often creates a frustrating situation within the home, as children and parents may clash over these ideas.
Of course, cultural issues are not the only differences in parenting in the United States. Phegley (2009) states that parents can easily identify what they want in their relationships with their children -- they wan the best. The best, she argues, "is entirely up to an individual's perception" (para. 2). Thus, parents often have different styles of parenting. These differences are often based upon differences in views about authority, respect, rewards, punishments, formalities, etc. While some argue that differences in parenting styles can benefit children, they can also become a source of tension within the family (Phegley, 2009). Because of this parents who have different styles of parenting might actually harm their children though fighting with each other about the best ways to parent. Thus, parenting styles in the United States further reflect the negative action and tension within the family, although they do allow for diversity and a variety of choices.
By examining how children are perceived in U.S. society, how adults interact with them, and different parenting styles or ways in which children are raised, many generalizations can be made. First, the observant student of sociology will note the drastic role that diversity and culture plays in the U.S. society. Second, it becomes clear that children play an important role in U.S. society, in that they constitute the future and hope of the society. Third, one can determine that the role of children in U.S. society has many negative aspects.
II. Implications for Unhealthy Relations in U.S. Culture
The fact that children's roles in the United States' culture and society have many negative aspects has implications for marriage and family studies, parenting workshops, and even education. But these serious problems are more far-reaching than simply affection sociological and psychological topics related to children. Instead, the way that society interacts with its children has major suggestions for unhealthy relations in U.S. culture. Specifically, the negative aspects of the roles that children play in U.S. society and culture have similarly negative implications for community development. But what is an unhealthy culture? Cultures vary greatly, having different values and goals, so how can one say that any culture is unhealthy? In order to determine what an unhealthy culture might look like, it is best to think of the United States as a business, and examine it the way that a business would consider its culture and the benefits or losses derived from it. The Educators Support Network (2007) defines culture as personality as synonymous. For an organization, specifically an academic organization, the Educators Support Network give the following indicators of unhealthy culture: low morale, unrealistic goals, little support from administration, poor relations among members of the organization, uncertainty, prejudice or lack of diversity, staleness (Educators Support Network, 2007). If one thinks of the United States as an organization -- whose goal is to be profitable -- many of these factors remain applicable. Of course, the United States' society's primary goal is not to be profitable in an economic sense, but instead to be profitable by raising children who go forth to perpetuate, grow, and progress the culture. Thus, an unhealthy culture in the United States displays the following similar characteristics, adapted from the Educators Support Network (2007). An unhealthy culture in the United States is suggestive of unhappiness or sadness among members, produces members with a lack of goals or motivation, provides no or a weak support network for its growing members, promotes a sense of poor relationships or an inability to interact with one another, has an uncertain future, uses diversity in a negative manner, and does not change or progress rapidly.
It is easy to see how the raising of children and society's interactions with children shape these characteristics. As the children who are maltreated in today's society will become the society of the future, the implications of society's poor interactions with its children also indicate a cycle of unhealthy relations that will be carried from one generation to another unless it is stopped. By considering two societal areas -- the family and diversity -- the implications of society's poor interactions with its children on unhealthy relations in U.S. culture can easily be observed.
The way in which society interacts with children in the U.S. suggests the breakdown of the family, which is certainly indicative of unhealthy relations in U.S. culture. The way that parents and non-parents perceive and interact with children implies that family life and children are no longer of great importance or desire in United States society, suggesting that families are no longer being formed with the frequency that they once were. Rebecca Walker (2008) points out that the feminist movement has pushed many American women into their later years without a family or children. These women do not desire a family or children, so family breakdown is perpetuated by an increasing number of people who do not see it as desirable. When families do form, the same attitudes are often present, causing children to be viewed as burdens, and perpetuating child abuse and neglect. As the Child Trends Databank (2008) suggests that many children do not live with both parents and that child abuse incidents are higher in these cases, evidence that supports the breakdown of the family is found. Parenting styles and different ways of raising children also suggest the breakdown of the family, as tension among parents leads to an unsupportive environment for children. Further, parents who worry obsessively over their children create tension in a similar way, suggesting, again, the breakdown of the family. In some families, the obsession regarding risk and harm that might come to children is so great that children are unable to achieve any sort of autonomy ("Seminar 3 Theme: Child-rearing in a risk society," 2007). Thus, the interactions between society and children in the way that adults perceive, interact with, and parent children suggest the breakdown of the societal institution of the family.
This breakdown can be seen as a perpetuator of an unhealthy culture. In the U.S. society and culture, family is an important institution that serves to perpetuate the characteristics of healthy culture and filter out the characteristics of a negative one. When properly functioning, family can help to perpetuate a healthy culture by raising children who can attempt to resist operating in a way that is consistent with an unhealthy culture. Family has, traditionally, served as a center for morality ("Seminar 3 Theme: Child-rearing in a risk society," 2007), as well as an institution where the values of society were to be learned. The breakdown of the family, however, cannot help but lead to unhealthy relations with in the U.S. culture. Many characteristics of an unhealthy culture are incubated in families that have been broken apart or are poorly functioning. For instance, in these families, communication and interaction among members is filled with strife, promoting a low morale and difficulty communicating in order to resolve problems. With no or limited support form parents or parental figures, children learn not to expect such support from society. Furthermore, they feel uncertainty in their own lives and suffer from an ability to form relations. All of these are indicators of unhealthy culture.
Clearly, the discussion regarding the way that society interacts with children in the United States implied that the United States' society does not have one culture, but many, and that diversity plays an important role in that overarching culture or society. Diversity is an extremely beneficial indicator of healthy culture for a society. In the case of the United States, however, the way with which diversity is treated is similar to how Nabhan (DATE) explains it in the Geography of Childhood:
Healthy cultures make space for people whose perception and actions fall far from the average. it's not that someone diagnosed as schizophrenic is automatically more sane than those of us who can cope -- chances are high that they have been severely injured by civilization, damaged from having to live with intense sensitivity in such a belligerent and unbalanced world. They may not lead us home, but we can accept their gifts. A healthy culture would use diversity for its strength. Ours does not. (7-8).
Thus, in the United States' society and culture, the interactions between society and children suggest that diversity is used as a weakness rather than a strength, another indicator of unhealthy culture.
In his study of parental interactions in children's play, Vandermaas-Peeler (2002) suggested that, despite diverse ways of interacting with their children, parents across cultures had one goal -- to do what was best for them. In the United States, this is not true. While there are diverse ways of perceiving, interacting with, and parenting children in the United States, not all of them focus…[continue]
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