Chapter 11: The Family
-Family: a social unit in which the adult partners or spouses and the children share economic, social and
emotional right and responsibilities as well as a sense of commitment or identification with each other.
-Parents & family play a crucial role in socialization: the process by which parents and others ensure
that a child's standards of behaviour, attitudes, skills and motives conform closely to those deemed
appropriate to her role in society.
-Many forces contribute to this. Starts from birth.
THE FAMILY SYSTEM
-Parents and kids have a mutual influence on each other.
-Kids also play an active role in their own socialization.
-Family is interdependent, changes in structure / altered behaviour of one member can affect the fxning
of the entire system.
-Also, families don't function in isolation: they are influenced by the social, physical, cultural,
historical settings they exist in.
-Family members change all the time, and these changes are reflected in family relationships.
The ecological systems perspective
-The view of the family as an interdependent system that functions as a whole.
-Has two origins: the realization that to change the behaviour of a child, you must change the
whole family system and Bronfenbrenner's ecological theory.
-Concerned w/ both the relations b/w the child and the systems in which he develops and the
relations among these systems themselves, from the microsystems to the macrosystems.
-Several principles of this theory:
-It is complex and organized
-It has an ongoing identity of its own
-This maintains a certain stability overtime but also must be capable of morphogenesis (adapting
to changes both w/in the system and outside of it.
-A system demonstrates equifinality as time goes by: develops many similarities with other systems like
it even though the systems may express these similarities in different ways (ex: families in diff cultures)
-Some other principles govern system functioning.
-Interdependency: explains why the fxning of the family system is not always smooth.
-Each family member / family subsystem influences and is influenced by each other. Ex: Parents
who have good relationships w/ each other more likely to be supportive of their kids and in turn,
the kids are likely to also be cooperative / supportive. -Families attain equilibrium or homoeostasis in their functioning and become resistant to forces that
might alter this balance.
-Good: routines and rituals help establish sense of family history, identify, tradition. Makes
interactions easier and more comfortable.
-Bad if too rigid. Adaptability is crucial for a well functioning family. In the face of distress,
unbending routines and rules can solidify / intensify negative interaction.
-May becomes locked into a pattern of interaction that promotes / sustains maladaptive
-Resistance to change can prevent families from recognizing problems and cause
members to blame all difficulties on one child; making him the scapegoat.
-Families have boundaries that vary in how permeable / vulnerable they are to outside influence.
-Well functioning families have permeable boundaries that let members have satisfying
relationships outside and within the family.
-If families are too rigidly bound, members may have difficulty disengaging from the family.
-These families have few positive community contacts and social supports.
-More likely to view their kids in a negative light and be punitive/inconsistent w/ them
-Families w/ too permeable boundaries are vulnerable to disruptions by external forces
-ex: bad peer groups.
The marital system
-Both partners in a marriage / committed relationship make up the marital system; the first and
founding subsystem w/in the family system.
-A satisfactory relationship is the cornerstone of good family fxning: can directly / indirectly lead to
effective parenting, good sibling relationships and healthy development of kids.
HOW DOES THE MARITAL RELATIONSHIP AFFECT CHILDREN?
-When partners are mutually supportive; they are more involved w/ their kids and show their kids
affection, sensitivity and have competent child-rearing practices.
-Study found that the amount of shared parenting b/w couples predicted marital satisfaction, parental
competence, closeness to children.
-Couples who share have more time for play w/ their kids and chances of witnessing milestones.
-They also help each other shoulder burdens of child care (ex: 2 am feedings.)
-Conflict b/w partners has negative effects on kids.
-creates insecure attachments to both parents.
-The way that partners manage conflict has effects on kids too.
-If they confront conflicts w/ hostility and contempt: kids display more aggressive and
-Fathers who have an angry, withdrawn style of dealing w/ disputes have kids more
likely to be depressed. -Effects of marital conflict on kids can take one of two pathways: direct and indirect.
-Kids can be indirectly affected when marital difficulties cause parents to change their child-rearing
practices and interact different with kids.
-Parents in conflicted marriage have poor parenting style: cold unresponsive, angry and
deficient in providing structure / setting limits.
-Their kids display lots of anger and non-compliance when interacting w/ their parents.
-Kids can be directly affected when they actually witness arguments and fights.
-Study had 2 adults bicker like 2 conflicted parents in front of kids.
-The more frequent & violent the conflict was and the more the argument was about
something that the child did, the more likely the kid is to show distress, shame and self
-If actors don't settle the dispute, the kids show more anger and distress than if the
conflict is resolved.
-Fighting in front of kids is bad. But if parents handle discussions constructively and show
respect & support, they reduce the harmful effects and can also model healthy conflict
negotiation for their kids.
-But, while conflicts more likely to occur while kids absent, they tend to be more
negative and destructive when kids are present.
-Boys are more susceptible to the negative effects of family disharmony because they are more likely to
be exposed to arguments and physical abuse. Parents quarrel less in presence of daughters.
-In response to marital conflicts, boys show more externalizing (aggressive / anti social)
behaviour and girls how more internalizing (shy / withdrawn) behaviour.
IMPACT OF NEW BABY ON MARITAL / PARTNER SYSTEM
-The most immediate effect, especially after first child - a shift towards a more traditional division of
-In families where both partners work, the wife is more likely to give up her job.
-Therefore, marital satisfaction declines more markedly in women. Also declines in men
but more slowly. Men gradually realize restrictions that baby places on their life and
realize they are no longer the focus of their wife's attention.
-Kids influence marital relationship in other ways too: temperamentally difficult or handicapped children
heighten family stress, which translates to marital conflict.
-But couples who were satisfied w/ their relationship before birth show fewer disruptions upon
baby's birth. Child rarely destroys good marriage. Presence of difficult child may fragment fragile
The Parent-Child System
-Parents use child rearing methods that encourage the qualities they want to see in their kids.
-They must adapt methods to child's temperament, needs, and the demands of the culture. -Individual kids may develop differently w/in the same family situation. (Recall: some kids are
resilient in adverse environments.
HOW PARENTS SOCIALIZE CHILDREN
-Attachment b/w parent and infant forms the foundation for later family relationships.
-Socialization becomes more conscious and systematic as child achieves mobility and begins to use
-Start reinforcing and punishing certain behaviours.
-In teaching children social rules and roles, parents rely on several learning princples.
-Use reinforcement to explain acceptable standards of behaviour & discipline when rules are
-Use modelling to teach kids desirable behavioiiur.
-Diff b/w modelling & reinforcement: reinforcement is used knowingly, observational learning
can occur by chance. Therefore, sometimes modelling leads to bad behaviour.
-Therefore, "do as I say not as I do" doesn't really work.
-Parents also manage aspects of children's environment that will influence their social development.
-Ex: choose neighbourhood, home, room colour, toys, books, TV programs.
-Promote social life by arranging events, enrolling them in extracurricular, etc.
DIMENSIONS OF PARENTAL BEHAVIOUR
-Parental emotionality is crucial to the socialization process.
-If parent is warm and loving: child will want to maintain the parent's approval and be distressed at any
prospect of losing their love.
-If parent is cold and rejecting: the withdrawal of love is no threat.
-Physical punishment is more effective in the hands of warm parents.
-Warm parents are more likely to give reasons for their rules: makes it easier for kids to follow.
-Warmth and nurturance are associated w/ parental responsiveness.
-Loving parents make child feel good about themselves, dispel anxiety, build sense of security and self
-These parents' kids more likely to learn and accept and internalize parental standards than kids
who have rejecting parents.
-Hostile parents & lots of physical punishment = high levels of tension and anxiety.
-Makes it difficult for child to learn the social rules. Control:
-Goal of socialization is to enable child to regulate own behaviour and choose socially responsible
-In child-parent interactions, parent has more control.
-2 types of control identified: behavioural and psychological.
-Behavioural control involves setting reasonable rules and parental use of suggestions, reasoning, and
monitoring child activities.
-When moderate levels of behavioural control are used, children are more likely to cooperate
and internalize standards.
-Psychological control involves the use of emotion-directed tactics such as guilt or shame induction,
withdrawal of love or affection, or ignoring or discounting child's feelings.
-Leads to low self esteem, high anxiety, depression.
-Age plays important role in children's responses to disciples. As kids grow, they resist being controlled
and manipulated and will try to negotiate.
-As kids gain in social and cognitive competence, becoming more autonomous, parents rely more on
reasoning and child will engage in more active bargaining.
-This shift to self-control rather than parental control becomes critical as parents' ability to
monitor child declines markedly in elementary school years.
-Some argue that what's important in socialization is not a particular dimension in parental behaviour,
but the overall combination of these behaviours.
-There are 4 parenting styles.
-Baumrind identified 3 of these based on parental views and observations of parents interacting w/ kids.
-Authoritative parenting: correlated w/ the behaviour of energetic-friendly kids who exhibited positive
emotional, social, and cog development.
Emotionality: warm, responsive. Control: restrictive, demanding.
-Authoritative parenting is parenting that is warm, responsive and involved yet unobtrusive, and
in which parents set reasonable limits and expect appropriately mature behaviour from their
-Associated w/ children's development of self esteem, adaptability, competence, internalized
control, popularity w/ peers, low levels of anti social behaviour.
-Authoritarian parenting: linked w/ the behaviour of conflicted, irritable children who tended to be
fearful, moody and vulnerable to stressors.
Emotionality: rejecting, unresponsive. Control: restrictive, demanding. -Authoritarian parenting is harsh, unresponsive, and rigid, and in which parents tend to use
power-assertive methods of control.
-Kids feel trapped and angry but fearful of asserting themselves.
-Sons more negatively affected by this: low in cog and social competence.
-poor academic and intellectual performance. Unfriendly, lacked self confidence, initiative and
leadership in relation with their peers.
-Permissive parenting: correlated w/ children's impulsive-aggressive behaviour.
Emotionality: warm, responsive. Control: permissive, undemanding.
-Permissive parenting is parenting that is lax and in which parents exercise inconsistent
discipline and encourage children to express their impulses freely.
-associated w/ the development of uncontrolled, non-compliant and aggressive behaviour.
-Uninvolved parenting: characterizes parents that are indifferent to or actively neglect their kids and
were motivated to do whatever is necessary to minimize the cost in time and effort of interactions with
the child. Emotionality: rejecting, unresponsive. Control: Permissive, undemanding.
-are parent centred rather than child centred.
-Particularly when the child is older, they fail to monitor their activities.
-This parenting is often found in depressed mothers and people under the stress of things like
marital discord or divorce.
-Their own anxiety and emotional neediness drives some parents to pursue self-
gratification at the expense and neglect of the child's welfare.
-Parental involvement is crucial for social and cog development.
-Lack of it in infants: associated w/ disruptions in attachment.
-Poor monitoring + coercive discipline in preschoolers: conduct problems.
-In older kids: associated w/ impulsivity, aggression, non-compliance, moodiness, low self
-Kids of uninvolved parents tend to be socially incompetent, irresponsive, immature, alienated from
families, and also show disruptions to cog development, achievement and school performance.
-Adolescents w/ uninvolved parents likely to be truant, spend time on streets w/ troublesome peers and
to be precociously sexually active, drinking problems, are delinquent.
CHALLENGES TO THE PARENTING STYLES APPROACH
-Some have suggested that we need to more clearly identify the components of each parenting style
that contribute to its relative effectiveness in respect to the child's development.
-Some propose giving greater attention to how much the child's temperament and behaviour influence
the parent's style. -Recent work making us question the generalizability of these styles to socio-economic or ethnic/cultural
- Do all groups use the parenting styles identified to the same degree?
-Are the advantages and disadvantages of each style for development similar across groups?
-No for both:
-Neighbourhoods make difference in development by determining the socialization strategies a parent
-In dangerous neighbourhoods, authoritarian > authoritative. Leads to better adjusted kids.
-Parental social integration w/in neighbourhood is also a factor.
-Better integrated = more vigilant about their kids behaviour.
-Cross cultural differences.
-No links b/w authoritarian parenting and negative feelings about the child / lack of warmth in ME
families in Canada.
-Authoritarian parenting in ME families associated w/ higher child self esteem.
-In Chinese families, child - rearing seems more authoritarian but some argue that NA and
Chinese conceptions of "authoritarian" are different, and the application of such a style to
Chinese parents is ethnocentric.
-It's important to consider contextual and cultural issues in developing new concepts of parenting styles.
The Co-Parenting System
Co-parenting: parenting in which spouses work together as a team, coordinating their child-rearing
practices with each other: co-parenting can be cooperative, hostile or characterized by different levels
of investment in the parenting task.
-In families where co-parenting patterns reflect warmth, cooperation, cohesion and child-centeredness,
there is a high degree of family harmony.
-Parents who are hostile may compete against each other and in some cases, may invest different
amounts of time and energy in the parenting task, leading to an imbalance b/w the amount of
-Gatekeeping is a form of co-parenting where one parent limits or controls the other parent's level of
-Ex: when mom assumes women are better at parenting and may set up subtle barriers that
limit dad's involvement. (Maternal encouragement increase dads' involvement.)
-Links b/w early co-parenting patterns and later indices of kid's social adaptation.
-Hostile co-parenting during infancy = aggression in children.
-When there were large discrepancies b/w the input of each parent, kids displayed anxiety. -There are links b/w problematic family alliances and insecure mom-child attachments and behavioural /
withdrawal problems in preschool years.
-Co-parenting impact on child is independent of the child-parent relationships and marital relationship.
-It makes a unique contribution to development.
The Sibling System
-Most kids spend more time in direct interaction w/ their siblings than w/ their parents or other
significant people in their lives.
HOW ARE SIBLINGS AFFECTED BY BIRTH ORDER?
-A child's position (birth order) affects her, her siblings, her parents and the interactions among all
-The experience of the first born child is unique.
-She first reigns supreme, and then is displaced and must share parents' affection.
-Only child enjoys parents' full attention during entire life.
-first borns are more adult oriented, helpful and self controlled.
-More studious, self conscientious, serious, excels in academic and professional endeavours.
-Interestingly, it is second born sons who support innovative theories in major scientific controversies
related to such issues as evolution.
-Study: found that middle-born uni students were significantly different from first and last borns.
-First and last borns more likely to use kinship to describe themselves, to turn to parents in time
of need, to nominate their mom as the person to whom they felt closest.
-Study consistent w/ this: found that second borns had more + interactions w/ their moms than did first
borns, and they showed fewer internalized behaviours.
-Downside to first borns: tend to be more fearful and anxious than their siblings, experience more guilt
and have more difficulty coping w/ stress.
-Possibly due to the greater expectations and responsibility.
-Only children has advantage over other kids in becoming a well adjusted adult.
-They are exposed to the same high level of parental demands as first borns but don't have to
adapt to displacement.
-Like first borns, they tend to be high achievers.
-less anxious and shows more personal control, maturity and leadership (due to closeness w/
-Make more positive adjustments w/in social relations both inside and outside the home.
BIRTH ORDER, PARENT CHILD, AND SIB SIB INTERACTIONS
-Parents can determine the level of distress first born faces w/ birth of new child.
-If mom continues to be responsive to child and help him understand feelings of younger child, sibling
rivalry is less likely. -If father becomes more involved w/ first born, this counter acts the feelings of displacement and
-Friends can also serve as a buffer in this transition.
-Preschoolers w/ good friendships were less upset and accepting of their new sibling.
-Siblings notice that parents do treat them differently.
-This differential parental treatment can have adverse effects for a disfavoured sibling, like more sibling
rivalry or increased stress.
-Children's own interpretation of the differential treatment can defuse effects of differential treatment
-Study on 11-13 y/o: only 25% of them viewed parental treatment as unfair.
-Majority accepted it and understood that age and needs of siblings accounted for parent's
-Only when siblings did not understand or tolerate different treatment did they view their
relationship w/ their siblings negatively.
-Older siblings in large families often assigned the supervisory and disciplinary role of a parent in a small
family Esp girls.
-In AA and Latino American families, older siblings, esp girls, often serve as caregivers.
-In some cultures, sibling caregivers are common.
-In some cultures, ex: Mexico, siblings, rather than parents are the major play partners.
-Birth order affects a child's interaction w/ his siblings.
-Eldest is expected to assume some responsibility for the younger sibling.
-Older sibs may fxn as tutors, managers, supervisors, of younger kids' behaviour during social
interactions and may also act as gatekeepers that extend or limit siblings' opportunities to interact w/
other children outside the family.
-Parents likely to restrain or punish eldest child for showing signs of jealousy or hostility of younger
sibling, and to protect / defend the younger child.
-Eldest is dominant and more competent, and can either bully or help and teach younger sibling.
-Therefore, older kids tend to show both more antagonistic behaviour, and also more nurturing
and pro-social behaviour towards younger sibling.
-Eldest sibling focuses on parent as main source of social learning. Younger use both parent and sibling.
-Younger siblings tend to watch, follow and imitate older siblings. This influence doesn't stop at school
70% of kids report getting homework help from siblings, esp from older sisters.
-Older can serve as negative influence too. Can encourage early sexual activity, drug use, or delinquency.
-Sibling relationships change with age.
-In adolescence, early sibling rivalry diminishes, and intimacy arises.
-Sibling serves as most trusted confidant and source of emotional support.
-Female siblings become closer over lifespan. The Family Unit as an Agent of children's Socialization: Family Stories and
-The entire family unit itself is an agent of socialization.
-As systems theory emphasizes: the properties, fxns and effects of the family unit cannot be inferred by
analyzing only family subsystems.
-Family units change across development; develop distinct styles of responding to events, setting new
boundaries. It creates a different context for development of children.
-Families also develop stories and rituals that transmit family values and roles, reinforcing the
uniqueness of the family as a unit.
-Through family stories, family members can transmit family-of-origin experiences across generations by
telling stories and sharing memories. This shapes contemporary interactions b/w members. Parents can
teach kids about the importance of grandparents and other members of the extended family through
-Study: found that mothers who told stories of their own childhood that emphasized nurturant and
playful themes engaged more in turn taking and reciprocal interactions w/ their kids.
-Moms who told stories of either achievement or rejection were less engaged and were more
intrusive and directive in their interactions w/ their children.
-Family rituals also important. Can be intricate and formal religious things, to simple interaction patterns
-Kids who come from families that were able to preserve family rituals (ex: dinner or holiday routines)
less likely to becomes alcoholics as adults and that adolescents from families who attach more meaning
to their rituals have higher self esteem than other children.
-Rituals offer a powerful clue to the nature and quality of family fxning and have clear protective
advantages for the child.
-Stories and rituals show us that families fxn not just as a collection of individuals but also as true
-Families differ from one another in much the same ways that individuals differ from one another.
SOCIAL CLASS, ETHNICITY AND SOCIALIZATION
Poverty and powerlessness
-The poor have a problem of powerlessness. Have less influence over their society and are less likely to
be treated adequately and w/ appropriate concern by social organizations.
-Lack of power, information, educational and economic resources, restricts the options available to
-Little choice in occupations, housing, and little contact w/ other social groups.
-Are vulnerable to job and financial stress, illness. Are subject to impersonal bureaucratic decisions in legal systems and in social institutions. Are more likely to have their rights violated
by agents of law, social workers, and educators.
-Due to these stressors, many low income families experience psychological distress, feel helpless,
insecure and controlled by external forces and are unable to support and nurture their kids adqueately.
-Families of any income level experiencing financial stress of any kind are more likely to experience
depression and martial conflict and be harsh with their children.
-Effects of economic stress of family fxn have been studied across ethnic groups in the USA.
-All showed similar responses to economic hardship.
-Similar effects also observed worldwide in countries like Romania, Brazil, Australia, etc.
-Mutual assistance and support among the poor themselves can help relieve this stress.
-Feeling of powerlessness lead families to form support networks of kin, friends, neighbours.
-These systems provide emotional support and also unpaid services.
-Render assistance in fulfilling emergency needs in times of unemployment, child birth, illness,
death and day to day needs.
IMPACT OF POVERTY ON CHILDREN
-Poor children face more risk to physical health.
-More likely to have low birth weight, to have inadequate prenatal care, to suffer from lead
poisoning, to die during childhood, to endure short-term hospital stay, to have too little food.
-Poverty also affects child's achievement.
-More likely to be held back in a grade, to drop out of high school.
-Kids in poverty more likely to suffer emotional or behavioural problems, to suffer child abuse or
neglect, to encounter a violent crime.
-The timing of poverty matters.
-Poverty in childhood more detrimental than in middle childhood or adolescence.
-Increasing income w/in the first 5 years of life increases chances of graduated hs by 3 fold.
-Increasing it later in childhood was less effective.
-Poverty affects children through several pathways.
-Quality of home environment: poor homes have fewer physical resources and receive fewer
learning opportunities and less cog stimulation.
-Quality of care received outside the home: poor kids often placed in poor quality child care.
-Poverty is linked w/ parent-child conflict: results in lower grades and impairs social and