7400.602 Family in Lifespan Perspective
Topic 14 - Becoming a Parent

Note: Updates on this page's pregnancy section - 04/21/08
The birth rate in the
United States has declined considerably during this century. In fact, since the early 1970s, the birth rate has been below the replacement level.   The birth rate has fluctuated considerably: declining dramatically from the mid- 1950s to the mid-1970s, leveling off and increasing somewhat in the late 1980s, and dropping again in the early 1990s. In generally birth rates are higher among the poor and minorities than among non-poor whites. The ideal number of children has changed over time; according to surveys, by the late 1990s, 41 percent of Americans said that three or more children is the ideal, and the mean number preferred was 2.5.
Reasons for Having Children:

The birth rate in the United States has declined considerably during this century. In fact, since the early 1970s, the birth rate has been below the replacement level. The birth rate has fluctuated considerably: declining dramatically from the mid-  1950s to the mid-1970s, leveling off and increasing somewhat in the late 1980s,  and dropping again in the early 1990s. In generally birth rates are higher among  the poor and minorities than among non-poor whites. The ideal number of   children has changed over time; according to surveys, by the late 1990s, 41  percent of Americans said that three or more children is the ideal, and the mean  number preferred was 2.5.

  • -Biological Drive to want children?
  • -Cultural expectation to parenthood. we see voluntarily childless persons as selfish
  • -Political reasons for having children-workers, soldiers
  • -Economic reasons - agricultural areas have larger families
  • -Familial reasons to extend the family name, carry on the family business, family pride.
  • -Religious reasons
  • -Personal Reasons: extension of self prestige & status - maturity, power trip, vicarious living of childhood, a developmental task, pleasure of parenthood

In spite of all the reasons for having children, increasing numbers of couples have  opted to be child-free. By the mid-1990s, 8.9 percent of American women aged  fifteen to forty-four years of age indicated that they expected to have no children.   People make this decision for a variety of reasons.
 1. personal fulfillment
 2. focus on career
 3. economic costs of children
 4. focus on the marriage
 5. doubts about parenting skills

Just as there is a substantial number of unwanted pregnancies, there is a substantial number of people who want children but who cannot bear them.

  • Infertility is usually defined as the inability to conceive after a year of unprotected sexual intercourse. There are different causes of infertility, including, in the case of the female, endometriosis, blockage of the fallopian tubes, and improper ovulation; in the case of the male, low sperm count or inadequate sperm motility are the leading reasons.
  • Coping with infertility may be difficult and can be compared to a process of grief, including the stages of surprise, denial, anger, guilt, depression, and resolution.
Those who are infertile and who want children or more children than they already have can choose from a variety of options.
  • Artificial insemination involves the infection of sperm into a woman’s vagina. Artificial insemination uses either the husband’s semen (AIH) or that of an anonymous donor (AID). AIH is useful when the husband’s sperm count is low. AID is less acceptable to people than AIH.
  • If the infertility is due to damaged or blocked fallopian tubes and the condition cannot be corrected, the couple may opt for in vitro fertilization, wherein eggs are removed from the woman’s body, fertilized with sperm in the laboratory, and then implanted in the woman’s uterus.
  • When the wife is infertile or incapable of carrying a child, a couple may opt for a surrogate mother. The surrogate mother may be inseminated with the husband’s sperm or, if the husband is also infertile, with the sperm of a donor.
  • Adoption is yet another option for the infertile. Children may be adopted either through an agency or through a private adoption. Open adoptions are becoming more common, which are in contrast to the secretive processes of the past. An open adoption avoids the problem of the adopted child’s desire to know about his or her genetic heritage.

The relationship between having children and the quality of life is complex.

  • Clearly, raising children is a demanding and sometimes agonizing task. The stresses of child rearing may begin as soon as the infant is brought home. The bulk of parents agree that the teen years are the most difficult of all. The stress can get intense when the marriage itself is troubled and one parent enlists a child into a coalition against the other parent, a process called triangulation by systems theorists.
  • Many studies have confirmed that marital satisfaction declines with the onset of the child-rearing years, then rises again when the children leave home. But, the relationship is extremely complex, including the possibility that marital satisfaction may even go up after the couple has children.
  • In spite of the problems and the stresses, most people continue to want children. Generally speaking, satisfaction with the parental role is very high, with women reporting more fulfillment as parents than do men. While couples are likely to experience some decline in marital satisfaction during the childbearing years, that does not mean that they are dissatisfied with their marriages. The satisfactions of parenting seem, for most people, to outweigh the stresses and problems.

Preparation for Parenthood
Mothers and fathers have somewhat different experiences of being parents. It is mothers who give a disproportionate share of themselves to the rearing of the children, including more physical, emotional, and mental work. The overall experience of mothering may enhance a woman’s sense of her own worth and help her establish a meaningful identity. Most mothers say they would have children again. The more fathers are involved with their children, the more satisfied they are with their lives, the closer their ties with their communities, and the more connected they are with their families. The amount of time fathers spend with their children has been increasing. Fathers who are satisfied with their marriages are likely to be more involved with their children

Before a person can care and nurture another, he or she has to feel loved and cared for.
    B. Developmental Tasks for Parents
  • Have a genuine desire to become a parent, to Nurture children in a selfless, loving way.
  • Wait to have children until the marriage relationship is well established.
  • Realize educational and income goals, or be well on the way.
  • Prepare for parenthood by anticipatory socialization:
    • -take a child development class.
    • -babysit together for other people's kids in a variety of age ranges.
    • -read book reports to each other about parenting and child rearing.
Parenthood is irrevocable! Parenthood is for real! Enormous Damage can be done to society and to individuals due to ineffective, or abusive parenting.


 Little known rights of children: A Bill of Rights for Children from the Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children (1970)
    All children have:
    1. The right to be wanted.
    2. The right to be born healthy
    3. The right to live in a favorable environment
    4. The right to loving care.
    5. The right to acquire the intellectual, emotional, and social skills for coping effectively in our society.
Psychological Conditions Fostering Healthy Child Development
The relationship between having children and the quality of life is complex. Clearly, raising children is a demanding and sometimes agonizing task. The  stresses of child rearing may begin as soon as the infant is brought home. The  bulk of parents agree that the teen years are the most difficult of all. The stress  can get intense when the marriage itself is troubled and one parent enlists a child  into a coalition against the other parent, a process called triangulation by systems  theorists.
Many studies have confirmed that marital satisfaction declines with the onset of  the child-rearing years, then rises again when the children leave home. But, the  relationship is extremely complex, including the possibility that marital   satisfaction may even go up after the couple has children.  In spite of the problems and the stresses, most people continue to want children.   Generally speaking, satisfaction with the parental role is very high, with women  reporting more fulfillment as parents than do men. While couples are likely to  experience some decline in marital satisfaction during the childbearing years, that  does not mean that they are dissatisfied with their marriages. The satisfactions of  parenting seem, for most people, to outweigh the stresses and problems.
    Providing Love & Acceptance vs. Criticism and Rejection
      Importance of parental affection:
      • -increases child's self-reliance
      • -increases independence
      • -increases self-control
      • -provides a sense of trust in parents, later in the world outside the family.
      Love and acceptance usually form part of a broader pattern of positive family interaction and relationships.
      Example: Parents who genuinely show acceptance of their kids also show interest in the child and what he or she is doing. This means: going to recitals, listening to jokes, CONSISTENTLY reading bedtime stories, always being accountable for your time and actions, Teaching your children by example.
      Parental Rejection: such as physical neglect, denial of affection, lack of interest in child's activities, harsh or inconsistent punishment, lack of respect for the child's rights and feelings. Effects are:
      • low self-esteem
      • feelings of insecurity
      • inadequacy
      • retarded intellectual development
      • increased aggression
      • loneliness
      • generalized fear and anxiety
      • guilt and depression
      • later difficulties in giving and receiving love.
      Example: lack of affection and rejection (when coupled with neglect or harsh punishment) is correlated with: fighting, aggression toward teachers (later cops), delinquency, social maladaptation, drug abuse, early entry into sexual relationships, suicide and clinical depression.

    Supplying Structure: A clearly structured Environment:
    • one that is orderly and consistent
    • one that allows a child to know what is expected and acceptable
    • one with clearly defined goals and objectives appears to foster healthy development.

    • 1. clearly defined standards and limits so that kids understand what goals, means, and conduct are approved.
      2. adequately defined roles for both older and younger members of the family, so that children know what is expected of both themselves and others.
      3. established methods of discipline that encourage desired behavior, discourage misbehavior, and deal with infractions as they occur.

    Encouraging Competence and Self-Confidence requires guidance: Children not only need assistance with academic skills, such as reading and writing, but also with social and interpersonal skills. (Cycle of violence studies, social incompetence  "runs" in families, like social heredity).
    Proper guidance used effectively requires knowledge of human development - and love.
    D. Presenting Appropriate Role Models
    Parents are always "guiding" their children, even when they don't intend to guide them.
    E. Ineffective Parenting Conditions
      • Disrupted parents - loss of father, lack of resources.
      • Inadequate parents - inability to cope w/ ordinary problems (time, money, effort).
      • Disturbed families - parents fight so much that children go unnoticed, enmeshment of the child into emotional problems of parents, exposure of child the constant emotional turmoil, irrationality.
      • Antisocial parents - values not accepted by the wider community, dishonesty, lack of concern for others, crime, whacky religions.
      • Abusive parents - characterized by violence.
    F. Creating a Stimulating and Responsive Environment touching, tasting, listening, looking. Children must be constantly be motivated to move out of old patterns of behavior and desire and into new ones.
Pregnancy
    A. Conception requires: a viable ovum and a viable sperm, with their introduction shortly after ovulation. This takes place in the fallopian tube (usually). The zygote then moves down the fallopian tube where it comes to rest on the wall of the uterus. Only 1 sperm is allowed to enter the ovum. 23 chromosomes in the sperm are matched with 23 chromosome s in the ovum. Each pair of chromosomes contains all the genetic information necessary to determine an infant's physical and psychological characteristics.

    Signs that Pregnancy has occurred:
    1. menstrual cycles cease
    2. breast enlargement and tenderness occurs
    3. frequent need for urination
    4. nausea
    C. Variables to Attend to Regarding Pregnancy
      1. Maturity of parents (biological, emotional, financial)
      2. Timing of pregnancy / childbirth The life goals of BOTH parents The length of the marriage thus far The Degree of marital adjustment so far
      3. Age of Parents**
      • Women's Fecundity period is ideally 20-35
      • Women 17 or under - premature infants, congenital birth defects.
      • Typically Women over 40 - risk of brain and head developmental defects - Down syndrome (see the box below)
      • **New research suggests that the biologies of both parents have a part to play in the occurrence of Downs - Most cases of Down syndrome aren't inherited. They're caused by a mistake in cell division during the development of the egg, sperm or embryo. Translocation Down syndrome is the only form of the disorder that can be passed from parent to child. However, only about 4 percent of children with Down syndrome have translocation. And only about half of these cases are inherited from one of the parents. In these cases, the mother or father is a balanced carrier of the translocation, which means he or she has some rearranged genetic material, but no extra genetic material. A balanced carrier has no signs or symptoms of Down syndrome, but he or she can pass the translocation on to children. The chance of passing on the translocation depends on the sex of the parent who carries the rearranged chromosome 21:
            * If the father is the carrier, the risk is about 3 percent.
            * If the mother is the carrier, the risk is about 12 percent.
        from the Mayo Clinic's website at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/down-syndrome/DS00182/DSECTION=3
      • Men - sperm health is the only aspect of aging that is in decline over time. The average American sperm is not as healthy as in past generations, due to health of men (lifestyle, air pollutants, carcinogens in the air, water, food, and soil).
Here is a somewhat comprehensive list of websites that address Down Syndrome, contributed by your classmate:
Research Centers:
      4. Spacing of children 3 to 4 years apart. Older children can become surrogate teachers
    Costs of prenatal and post natal care
      From Conception to Delivery - $3000 to $6000
      Genetic Counseling is sometimes necessary (some diseases tend to plague ethnic and racial groups) There are specialized testing procedures for these and other developmental factors.

    Pregnancy by Trimesters = EVERY 3 MONTHS
      1. First Trimester - the embryonic stage begins at the end of week three - Fetal stage begins between the sixth and eighth week when brain, muscles, blood vessels and heart are developed. Development of skeletal, nervous system, and excretory systems.. 1st trimester is difficult for the mother - Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, headaches, depression, irritability and anxiety. Heightened emotionality. Husbands may deal with these changes in a number of ways. They may refuse to accommodate these behaviors, or they may act in an informed manner, trying to understand.  It is important that women are careful regarding the use of anti-nausea drugs - all drugs in fact. An understanding g husband can largely replace dependence on these things - in fact . . . there is much less use and more informed use since daddies have been going to prepared childbirth classes.
      Prenatal care suggests that pregnant women stay away from smoking (low birth weight, premature infants, and infants prone to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)., and leads to infants who are not resistant to disease), and alcohol of any kind (fetal alcohol syndrome). Women should take their vitamins, get exercise and eat healthy, balanced foods.
      2. 2nd trimester - most of the physiological nasties go away, replaced by a 'pleasant' feeling for the mother. Quickening excites both. Husbands frequently lie with an ear on mother's abdomen, and even invite close friends or complete strangers for a listen or feel. Father's seem to enjoy this more than mothers - However . . .
      3. 3rd trimester - more discomfort, not physiological, but physical - momma is getting big in the middle. Because baby is getting bigger, pressure is applied to mom's internal organs, resulting in indigestion, a feeling of a constant need to urinate, shortness of breath, and a change in her center of gravity. Mother is stressed by the extra weight gain - self-image-wise - so nicknames like 'Goodyear' or shouts of 'There she blows!" are not advised - Worries over the baby's health and development as well.
      Couvade - in some primitive societies, men exhibit all the signs of the pregnant wife, screaming in agony over simulated labor pains, crying for comforts. Men will dress in wife's clothing, disguise straw dolls as infants and hide them under their clothes. These babies will be "delivered" in the same manner as the real baby and simultaneously.
      The social function of couvade is to publicly establish paternity. Spiritually, the function is to confuse evil spirits lurking to enter the real child by waving the doll instead.
      Prepared Childbirth Classes - Lamaze is pretty popular and will suffice.
Erikson's Eight Stages of Human Development

The Epigenetic Principle

When baby comes home from the hospital, the realistic expectations of parents are realized.
Our society, through social expectations, burdens mothers with most of the developmental and nurturant duties of child rearing.
Fathers traditionally are expected to:
  • play and rough house with infants and young children
  • tend to only hold the baby for pleasure not care giving
  • gender role development seems to be father's concern.
  • father organizes social activities - playing games events

    A. Effective parenting for infants through school age:
    1. promoting physical and motor development - nutrition, exercise, tactile stimulation, muscle development
    2. promoting cognitive development providing a visual environment verbalizing often foster curiosity and interest transmission of values through demonstrated joy in learning and discovery. books - not expensive ones - magazines - active learning experiences.
    B. Supplying Structure: A clearly structured Environment:
  • -one that is orderly and consistent
  • -one that allows a child to know what is expected and acceptable
  • -one with clearly defined goals and objectives appears to foster healthy development.
    • 1. Clearly defined standards and limits so that kids understand what goals, means, and conduct are approved.
      2. Adequately defined roles for both older and younger members of the family, so that children know what is expected of both themselves and others.
      3. established methods of discipline that encourage desired behavior, discourage misbehavior, and deal with infractions as they occur.
  • Encouraging Competence and Self-Confidence requires guidance: Children not only need assistance with academic skills, such as reading and writing, but also with social and interpersonal skills. (Cycle of violence studies, social incompetence "runs" in families, like social heredity). Proper guidance used effectively requires knowledge of human development - and love.
  •  Presenting Appropriate Role Models - Parents are always "guiding" their children, even when they don't intend to guide them.
  • Creating a Stimulating and Responsive Environment touching, tasting, listening, looking. Children must be constantly be motivated to move out of old patterns of behavior and desire and into new ones.  Children are priceless ...
    • -direct costs include about $100,000 each from o to 18.
    • - additional $30,000 for four years of college.
    • -indirect costs from the lost interest on the $130,000 and lost time at work for parenting responsibilities, and lost educational opportunities.
That is why we are so eager to have our little investments behave in appropriate ways.

Discipline

Diana Baumrind (1979) offers a typology of parental styles with research that documents the typical child from each type of parenting style.

  • 1. Authoritarian parents insist on obedience requiring children to assume responsibility without respecting kids personal worth, privacy, or other human rights. There is the expectation of responsible behavior without the promise of increased privilege.
  • 2. Permissive parents - insist on complete freedom for children and their enjoyment of all privileges without the expectation of responsible behavior. permissive and neglectful.
  • 3. Authoritative parents exert control and disciplining gradually and developmentally. Limits are set to be broken as the child grows into maturity. Controls are placed as they are needed and relaxed as behavior training occurs. Of the three types of parenting, the resultant child is likely to be shy and withdrawn and prone to aggressive behavior if their parents were authoritarian. These people, while they achieve more in the $$$ sense, are very unsure of themselves and score low on self-esteem tests.
If their parents were permissive, the resultant child will likely grow up hedonistic, easily bored and unexcited by life, and unhappy. More likely to be depressed. Among all children, the ones with authoritative parents were most likely to exhibit healthy expectations for themselves, and were more likely to have higher mental health. These are the healthiest of all children, with regard to parenting received. Permissive parents either never punish in any way, or they are very inconsistent with their issuance of punishments. Authoritarian parents are more likely to have more children, to use corporeal punishment.

Now - authoritative parenting takes four times as much energy and time, but the result is a child that is better prepared to face the enormous peer pressures of adolescents and young adulthood. These children are more self-assured and independent at earlier ages than children parented using other styles. Which would you rather have in the long run - a child that is easily lead and influenced as a child and an adult - or a difficult strong willed child with the necessary information to make his or her own decisions. Ways to use discipline in non-threatening (and therefore, healthy) ways:
  • - timing of discipline - swift and sure - soon after the offense. Sort of does away with "mom" or "dad" as the disciplinarian. Much like house breaking a puppy.
  • -setting - punishment always in private. Only praise in public.
  • -consistency - establishment of a clear pattern of offenses and punishments. What is wrong today is wrong tomorrow, until it isn't wrong ever again.
  • -parent-child relations - punishment can be less severe if the child loves the parent, trusts the parent. Often no punishment is necessary - replaced by informative talks.
  • -intensity - loss of privileges, toys, scolding, begin with reason, can't reason with a 1 year old. - don't have to.
  • inductive forms of control - "Why do you think kids smoke?" "How are we going to keep this room clean?"
Parenting Teenagers:
Parents of adolescents report lower levels of life satisfaction, less marital happiness, and more general distress than parents of younger children, or the childless. Spite, revenge, passive aggressiveness, and rebelliousness toward parents are all normal, even healthy, aspects of adolescence. However, among families whose kids were seeing psychologists, feelings of closeness with siblings, and often a sub-layer of harmony were the norm. Current research shows that all bickering and arguments seldom undo close emotional bonds or lead adolescents and their parents to reject each other. In fact, it is precisely the conflict that is the mechanism that drives adolescents out of the house and into independence.  If home life was completely satisfying, then children would never leave.
With the onset of puberty occurring a little earlier, the adolescent's need to "desatellize" and establish some autonomy, occurs a little earlier as well. Inconsistent parenting, blocked communication channels, and extremes of strictness (or permissiveness) can make a strained situation worse than it needs to be. Parents, because they've been making decision for their children for so long, like to think they have complete power to mold their children's personalities, and intellects.
Parental control starts out real, and ends in a bluff.. Clearly experiences are crucial and determine a child's basic nature by age six.

The Spockian Challenge

After WWII, a couple of million of ex - G.I..'s cam home and married their sweethearts and moved into a tract house. Dad took a job in a prosperous economy fed by WWII-Korea-Vietnam. Mom could stay home and tend to the house and kids. Suddenly everyone was having babies and the Baby Boom was in full swing. Several parenting books emerged with the diaper services and toy companies, and psychology departments. Spock's book - listed symptoms of childhood diseases and remedies - and spoke for the first time about Baby's Emotional and Mental Health. (Only women were reading this!).

Mom - was told she was responsible for Baby's emotional stability. If baby was harshly disciplined, he wouldn't be emotionally responsive as an adult. She was told to allow baby to express itself - to think out loud, to be expressive. The highly moralistic 50's also taught baby to trust the government, Parents never lie, respect the truth, and be compassionate to those less fortunate. fight only as a last resort, and that America was the greatest place in the world to live. As we entered the 1950's, we entered the age of the teenager, and the development of a distinct "youth culture". The Government played into the hands of this scenario by consistently getting involved in wars that they couldn't justify. The Economy also found the opportunity to sell more and more needless products to youngsters, based on the idea that teen love, teen sexiness, teenage bullshit angst, could be mined for profit.

Marriage After Transition to Parenthood
    A. The marriage is about to change forever, so be mindful of three steps:
      1. Negotiation of a satisfactory pattern of exchange love and affection now that children are present.
      2. Watch for the "Path of Least Resistance" as children take more and more away from the marriage relationship.
      3. Investigate Joint Parenting Styles.
      4. Discuss the new role expectations each has of the other.
      5. Maintain the marriage relationship by making special times for each other's company.
Division of Labor - Who is going to:
  • -take care of children's needs
  • -emotional -physical -daily routines
  • -manage the affection in the family
  • -socialize children
  • -be the disciplinarian -
  • be the companion to kids
  • -be their confidant
  • -be their nurse/doctor/psychologist
  • -bread winner
Love and affection - depending on the earlier degree of expressed love and affection - pregnancy could enhance the relationship or it could detract from it. Sexuality - whatever the frequency of sexual activity, it is going to decline during pregnancy, and can decline overall after delivery.  Husbands are willing to compromise during pregnancy, but will want their privileges back after delivery 

Mothers and fathers have somewhat different experiences of being parents. It is mothers who give a disproportionate share of themselves to the rearing of the  children, including more physical, emotional, and mental work. The overall  experience of mothering may enhance a woman’s sense of her own worth and  help her establish a meaningful identity. Most mothers say they would have  children again. The more fathers are involved with their children, the more satisfied they are with  their lives, the closer their ties with their communities, and the more connected  they are with their families. The amount of time fathers spend with their children  has been increasing. Fathers who are satisfied with their marriages are likely to  be more involved with their children..