The research will address the following research questions, in addition to the central hypothesis.
How malleable are generational boundaries? In other words, how willing are teens to adapt to new generational boundary styles?
Are generational boundaries set during the early childhood years?
How frequently do teens assume a parental role in dysfunctional families?
What techniques could help tends and their adoptive parents reach a compromise that results in the development of healthy generational boundaries within the new family unit?
These research questions, in addition to the research hypothesis will help to contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the field of family therapy.
Contribution of This Research
This research will play an important role in the field of family therapy. It will be specifically targeted towards helping develop new techniques and methods for helping adoptive families and their teens establish healthy generational boundaries within the new family. This is a specialized field within the larger context of family therapy, but it will also help to increase our understanding of how generational boundaries react to change within non-adoptive families as well. It is expected that dissolution of generational boundaries in the adoptive child's first family will result in their learned style of parental relationships being carried over into their new families. It will contribute to the general body of knowledge in the field of family therapy, specifically in the area of generational boundary dissolution.
Literature into generational boundaries and the impact of dissolution of these boundaries is characterized by a wave of research in the early to mid 1990s. However, more recent sources are lacking. There have been a few book published that explore the topic in-depth, but there is a lack of academic work on the subject. This research will be based on the most recent publications available on the topic. It will draw from the major works in the area in an attempt to glean as much information from academia as possible. However, it may be noted that certain gaps in the research will become obvious. These gaps provide the fuel for future research efforts into the field.
Attachment, Relationships and Adoption
It has been suggested that adoption has a psychology that is all its own. One of the first studies on the psychology of adoption was by Schecter (1960). He noted that adoptees were 100 times more likely to present emotional problems than non-adoptees. His research suggested that rejection of the birth parents was a major contributing factor. Another landmark work in the psychology of adoption was conducted in 1954 and involved the question of whether it is best to inform children of their adoption. This work addresses many issues between the adoptive parents and children (Kirk, 1953).
A study concluded by Jaffee and Fanshel (1970) found that when and how the parents reveal the adoption story is crucial to the child's adjustment. In the proposed research study, the children are old enough to be active participants in their adoption. The Jaffee and Fanshel study, it was found that minimal information about the adoptive status helped to stimulate the new parent-child relationship. The children in the current research study will not have this advantage. Therefore, they can be expected to exhibit a more restrictive parent-child bond.
Perhaps one of the most important studies concerning adoption in relation to the proposed research suggested that children who felt different from their adoptive parents experienced lower self-esteem than those who felt close to them (Beckett, Castle, & Groothues et al., 2008). The ease with which children could talk to their adoptive parents played a major contributing role in their self-esteem (Beckett, Castle, & Groothues et al., 2008). The ability to resolve past trauma and losses playa role in the child's ability to form attachments in the new family (Walker, 2008). Children who were frightened of their parents developed unresolved fears as adults (Hesse & Main, 2006). The adolescent years highlight the themes of identity, belonging and attachment (Fitzhardinge, 2008).
In infants adopted internationally, attachment scores were not found to differentiate from those of non-adopted infants with their mothers (von Londen, Juffer, & can Ijzendoorn, 2007).
Foster caregivers attributed nine major causal categories to emotional problems in the child for whom they cared. Early experienced of adversity and neglect were the primary attributions for emotional problems (Taylor, Swann, & Warren, 2008; Feeney, Passmore, & Peterson, 2007)). Foster children can develop significant attachments to their foster caregivers (Odell, 2008).
It has been established that in children who were adopted earlier in life, their attachment and trauma associated with their initial caregiver had a dramatic impact on their ability to adjust and form attachments with their adoptive parents (Howe, 2001; Miller, 2005; Weitzman & Albers, 2005). These delays may have a biological basis (Kertes, Gunnar, Madsen & Long. 2008). Verissomo & Salvaterra, (2006) found that mutual exchange was a key to developing attachments in adoptive parents and children. Children placed after infancy are more prone to attachment disturbances, developmental delays, and post traumatic stress disorder (Nickman, Rosenfeld, & Fine, et al., 2005). Another study assessed cognitive development at age four and found that institutional care during infancy resulted in an insecure attachment type (Vorria, Papailiquora, & Sarafidou et al., 2006). Another study found that girls tended to form higher quality relationships than boys (Stams, Juffer, & van-Ijzenfoorn, 2002).
Characteristics of Weak Family Boundaries
Sometimes boundaries are open only in one direction and closed in the other. For instance, a mother may try to live vicariously through their child, assuming that they know all of their likes and dislikes based on their own personal preferences (Savage, 2002). The child may or may not have these same preferences, but they never get to voice their opinions. In a sense, the child is stifled as an individual and is viewed as if they are an extra appendage of the adult.
In a family where the parents invade the boundaries of the children, the child can develop feelings of being powerless. They can become frustrated, as their own needs and emotions are pushed to the back, while others seemingly have all of the control. Children in these types of families get the sense that it is not OK to be themselves with their own ideas. Whenever, they have an opinion, it will be criticized if it does not match that of the parent and they may be belittled for their opinions (Savage, 2002). Children in these types of families may grow up to become what they perceive is expected of them, no what they truly wish to become Family expectations are more important than individual wants and needs in this type of family.
In a boundariless family where the children's boundaries are suppressed, the child may grow up feeling as if anything they do is not good enough (Savage, 2002). These families are close, almost too close and the individual gets stifled. Often the parents will tell an entirely different story of the child's developmental years, or replace part of their child's story with their own (Savage, 2002). They child has no right to "own" their childhood stories and viewpoint of what happened. The child often feels as if they need to fulfill some need in their parent's life, but they may not necessarily know what or how to do it (Savage, 2002).
Sometimes, in order to fill the expectations of a parent who stifles their boundaries, the child will develop a "mask" that they wear on the outside. They hide their own true feelings and only show that family what is expected of them. Sometimes the mask is so convincing that they eventually have trouble finding out what they are really like. They become the mask and forget what they are truly like on the inside (Savage, 2002). They must learn to re-discover their own wants and needs.
Children who do not learn to assert their own boundaries as a child often have difficulty in relationships outside of the home (Savage, 2002). For instance, they may take their loose idea of boundaries to work, treating co-workers or employees as if they are friends. When this happens, rules and regulations may go unheeded and the manager can lose control of the office. They do not know where to draw the line in professional relationships. Berszontsky (2004) found that children in families that experienced boundary dissolution were likely to exhibit difficulty developing and defining their own identity.
Abuse is the ultimate form of boundary crossing in families. Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse occurs when there is an overt intrusion of the child's space (Savage, 2002). An old stereotype exists which states that victims of abuse have a tendency to become abusers themselves. This may be because they do not have appropriate modeling and definition of boundaries. They were not shown where limits need to be drawn in relationships. Unless the abused child learns to establish appropriate boundaries, they may be likely to go down the same path that they were shown. The inability…