Notes for Adolescents and their Families
School of Family and Consumer Sciences 400.404/504 Instructor: D. Witt
General Notes on
Family Relationships in Middle Childhood and
From middle childhood and on through adolescence,
children begin to spend more time with peers and less
time with parents. They are changing their reference
group, or desatellizing. Almost naturally, parents
expectations of their children begin to change as
children begin to redefine their own place in society.
Part of the reason that children begin to be critical of parental values and attitudes, aside from an expanding cognitive ability, is because of their need to individuate themselves away from their family of origin. At some point the developing child begins to see themselves as independent agents, often long before they are actually capable of independent living and thinking. This is a question not of reality but of perception. Mead's idea regarding the cumulative internalization of societal expectations is the root cause of moving emotions and feelings away from family and towards others - and a major cause of maturity. Obviously, if an individual does not internalize social expectations, and does not develop a self of self apart from family, then age is irrelevant. Certainly you may know someone who is in their 30s, 40s, or 50s who seems to have never really matured.
As children move through our stages of interest, their
parents are also continuing to change and develop.
Age of parents at
childbearing is a factor in family relationships. In the
case of teenage parents, the parent(s) is/are attempting
to parenting while still working through the
developmental tasks of adolescence and early adulthood.
Identity, Occupational commitments, Intimacy issues all
exist here. On the other hand, there is a national
trend toward delaying marriage and delaying
child-rearing until late 20s and early 30s. Largely
because of demands to complete educational goals and
begin careers, these families have fewer children and
tend to be older, more stable, and have more family
resources to spend on fewer children.
The role of the elderly grandparents began to change as
people started living longer and can be of service to
grandchildren and their own adult children. In
some cases, grandparents do a far amount of parenting
and advice giving, in addition to enormous financial
assistance. This situation works out well
for young families until the grandparent becomes unable
to live independently and becomes a financial burden on
the children. Firm planning and budgeting long
before the time comes to act is the key to successful
navigation of this final stage of life.
The boomer would have to make a Herculean effort to
find inappropriate media content which would be tame by
today's standards. The 90s baby has probably stumbled
accidentally into inappropriate internet websites
Imagine what that child might find if a little effort
was put into the project.
Parent Child Dynamics are changing, mostly due to the
effects of both parents working full time jobs away from
home. Maturity only begins in middle childhood, and the
process takes decades to complete. Skills such as native
creativity and problem solving require some significant
adult supervision. When both parents work 40+ hour jobs
(college professors, for example work about 56 hours a
week), time for children and family tends to get pushed
back behind relaxation after work in front of the
television.. Parents, especially mothers, play am
indispensable role in the development of a child's
values and attitudes. Ensuring that children follow
appropriate routine and guidelines.
Family Processes and
Reciprocal socialization - the two way approach was probably always the actual process that occurred. Here attitudes and behaviors were "negotiated" in mutual influence (Maslow) and mutual regulation (Erikson).. Synchrony refers to coordinated interaction between p-c in which they are attuned to each other's behavior.
The Construction of
Relationships is an interpersonal process. Developmental
construction views share the belief that as individuals
grow up they acquire modes of relating to others. Either
a person has continuous, stable relationships and comes
to expect these in life, or a person has more
discontinuous, changing, unstable relationships and sees
this as the normal way relationships develop.
I have a theory that individuals begin to develop relationships at birth through pure Sensory information (i.e., being cuddled, nurtured, fed, kept comfortable). During childhood, these sensory feelings are reinterpreted as Emotions and transferred to Chumships (Toddler friendships, if you will). During preadolescence and teens, formal operations allows us to re-reinterpret Sensory and Emotional feelings Intellectually. That is, we can think about what makes a good friend or a sweetie-pie.
In late adolescence, we begin and maintain friendships through Intellect first, then slowly move towards Emotions as we move through adolescence. Finally, in late adolescence, we allow our Senses to experience being cuddled, nurtured, fed, kept comfortable again - not by Mom or Dad this time, but with our one true love sweetie-pie!
If early attachments are not made for parent and
child, the p/c bond is hindered, which makes chumship,
friendship and love relationship much harder.
Fathering studies show that Parents must adapt to the
You've all seen Baumrind's typology of Parenting Styles.
Family & Child Developmental thinkers almost all agree that Authoritative Parenting is the best way to insure child development. The big news in terms of parenting adolescents is that unless parents have been practicing authoritative styles of discipline and control since the child's early years, authoritative parenting will probably not be possible with teenagers.
Punishments versus Discipline -Punishments typically used by Authoritarian Parents
Essentially no punishments are necessary with Authoritative parenting. Instead - Inductive forms of control are more effective and positive. They also takes more time to accomplish inductive forms - but increases the quality of the parent/adolescent relationship. Inductive controls put the responsibility for good behavior (and the positive consequences that follow) on the teenager!
Social class differences in parenting: Working class - traditional, corporal punishment, emphasis on material resources, living closer to the buck.
Middle class - more androgynous and democratic. These people can afford an emphasis on ideals and symbols, deferred gratification, self-direction, personal growth. Before we go blaming the lower & working class for producing bad kids - why is it the case that do poor kids seem to get in more trouble than rich kids? Maybe they are simply more visible and have fewer resources to use when they do get into trouble. Chambliss' study entitled "Saints and Roughnecks" makes this point. Here middle class teenagers (saints) actually committed many more infractions than did the evil working class and poor kids (roughnecks). However, the roughnecks were many times more likely to be looked at suspiciously and processed through the juvenile corrections system.
Parent Adolescent Conflict - Everyday conflict is commonplace, but is it necessary? It is - normal and healthy when moderately experienced? High levels of conflict, however, has to do in part with parent's inability to compromise and empathize with the teen's angst. Most parent/adolescent conflict is over superficial issues - over teen's need to establish a bit of independence and his need to "fit" in with his peers. Conflict is usually over normal everyday events - school work, peers, minor disobedience, length of hair, clothing styles, language. Just as is true of the developmental task, the discomfort that comes from interpersonal conflict can have very positive "relationship growth" potential between parent and child. Often parents are not willing to accept their role as a cause of adolescent self-destructive behaviors. It is theorized that severe parent/adolescent conflicts can be traced to conditions prior to adolescence. Adolescence is simply the first opportunity that children have to assert their dissatisfaction with the way things have been going.
Strategies for Reducing Parent Adolescent Conflict:
Ausubel's theory of adolescent autonomy: