Child Influences on Marital and Family Interaction. A Life-Span Perspective

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The meso-system. Meso-systems are the interrelationships among settings i. The stronger and more diverse the links among settings, the more powerful an influence the resulting systems will be on the child's development. In these interrelationships, the initiatives of the child, and the parents' involvement in linking the home and the school, play roles in determining the quality of the child's meso-system.

The exo-system. The quality of interrelationships among settings is influenced by forces in which the child does not participate, but which have a direct bearing on parents and other adults who interact with the child. These may include the parental workplace, school boards, social service agencies, and planning commissions. The macro-system. Macro-systems are "blueprints" for interlocking social forces at the macro-level and their interrelationships in shaping human development.

They provide the broad ideological and organizational patterns within which the meso- and exo-systems reflect the ecology of human development. Macro-systems are not static, but might change through evolution and revolution. For example, economic recession, war, and technological changes may produce such changes. Bronfenbrenner's conceptual framework proved a useful starting point for multivariate systems research in which family considerations became secondary to the design of institution-based social programmes focusing on children.

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Belsky pioneered theories of the processes of competent parental functioning. His model focused on factors affecting parental behaviour and how such factors affect child-rearing, which in turn influences child development. At the family level, Belsky's interest, like Bronfenbrenner's, is primarily on interpersonal interactions between parent and child.

Developed to explain the causes of child abuse and neglect,. The model presumes that parenting is directly influenced by forces emanating from within the individual parent personality , within the individual child child characteristics of individuality , and from the broader social context in which the parent-child relationship is embedded. Specifically, marital relations, social networks, and jobs influence individual personality and general psychological well-being of parents and, thereby, parental functioning and, in turn, child development.

Belsky , Through an intensive literature search, Belsky drew the following conclusions regarding the determinants of parenting Belsky , Belsky found that parental personality and psychological wellbeing were the most influential of the determinants in supporting parental functioning. When two of three determinants are in the stressful situation, he stated that parental functioning is most protected when parental personality and psychological well-being still function to promote sensitive caring.

In other words, optimal parenting still occurs even when the personal psychological resources of parents are the only determinant remaining in positive mode.

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The influence of contextual subsystems of social support is greater than the influence of child characteristics on parental functioning. On the basis of his review of the literature, Belsky determined that risk characteristics in the child are relatively easy to overcome, given that either one of the other two determinants is not at risk. The Belsky process model does not specifically define the child's developmental outcome Belsky defined it as competent offspring, without any further explanation.

No special attention is given to the importance of the family's material resources, while the family's social resources are conceptualized impersonally as the contextual subsystem of support. Belsky's work is most useful in exonerating the child of blame for poor outcomes. Blame, however, might seem to shift to the parent, as parental personality is viewed as a relatively transcendent or intrinsic and immutable characteristic. The optimal development of a young child requires an environment ensuring gratification of all basic physical needs and careful provisions for health and safety.

Caldwell and Bradley take an operational approach to defining the list of home, environmental, parental, and family characteristics needed to foster the development of the child table 4. While consistent with Belsky's concept of the importance of parental personality, this approach operationalizes a set of propensities to interact behaviourally with the child in ways that are, or are not, conducive to the child's development. It then focuses on assessing and intervening on these behaviours and on the contextual support subsystem rather than on the personalities that produce them.

The two HOME assessment checklists for children, aged years, and years, provide the behavioural variables used in our models. These check-list items, on the year scale, are combined into subscales, derived from factor analysis of data from the US reference population, measuring emotional and verbal responsivity, acceptance of the child's behaviour, organization of the environment, provision of play materials, parental involvement with the child, and opportunities for variety.

The Caldwell HOME inventory has proven a very useful research tool, but should be viewed as a starting point for more culturally appropriate measures in each developing country setting. A modification of the Caldwell HOME inventory, along with other culturally appropriate items determined by rapid appraisal and preliminary qualitative research, could be used with factor analysis to identify the relevant factors.

Moreover, in these cultures the variables in the acceptance subscale seemed more indicative of parental neglect than of positive parenting Satoto and Zeitlin ; Aina et al. By contrast, factor analysis on the Indonesian year-old check-list identified a "community socialization" factor that was apparently not present in the US sample.

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These analyses sensitized us to the value placed by American culture on "acceptance" of what was viewed to be the child's emerging autonomy, and the fact that our two other cultures did not value autonomy similarly. Zeitlin, Ghassemi, and Mansour , reviewing and conducting cross-cultural studies in developing countries on good physical growth and in fewer studies good cognitive test performance in the presence of poverty, concluded that children with the most favourable outcomes tend to live in cohesive, supportive, wellspaced, two-parent families, without major pathologies.

These findings contrast with studies from the United States that controlled for socio-economic status Cashion , showing that children in female-headed households have good emotional adjustment, if they are protected from stigma, and good intellectual development comparable to that of other children in studies.

In fact, child outcomes were better in a low-conflict, single-parent household than in a high-conflict, nuclear family Clingempeel and Reppucci Parents of children who are positive deviants typically have superior mental health, life satisfaction related to the child, greater upward mobility and initiative, and more efficient use of health, family planning, and educational services. They display favourable behaviours towards their children, such as rewarding achievement; giving clear instructions; frequent affectionate physical contact; and consistent, sensitive, and patiently sustained responsiveness to the children's needs Zeitlin, Ghassemi, and Mansour This research provides further empirical evidence for Belsky's conclusion that the psychological resources of the parents are particularly important in impoverished settings, where the support context and the child's own condition may be fragile or in a negative state.

The family both as an entity in itself and as the producer of developmental and welfare outcomes of its members Perspectives on the family both as an entity and as a producer of developmental outcomes of its members Kreppner and Lerner depict it as a social context or "climate" facilitating the individual's entry into other social contexts and as an environmental factor containing both genetically shared and non-shared components for the developing individual. Research in this area investigates the interplay between sensitive periods in individual development and family development - e.


The family is seen as a dynamic context in which the child is both transformer and transformed. Schneewind provides a psychological model of the family and its effects on children that is supported by empirical work, using an extensive field study of West German families with children aged years. The model, which Schneewind called "an integrative research model for studying the family system," is the only one we found that deals quantitatively with the family itself as a system as well as with measurable child outcomes that depend on the family system, and that clearly specifies causal relationships between factors.

Using this model, Schneewind tried to understand how and to what extent the "extrafamilial world" is associated with the "intrafamilial world" in the processes of socialization within the family. A general conceptual framework of the model can be seen in figure 4.

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Socio-economic and demographic variables are used as contextual variables reflecting the spatial and social organization, and social inequality. These variables represent the family's eco-context for further use. This eco-context is a potential source of stimulating agents that can be used by parents in performing their parental functioning.

This potential source is transformed into the actual experience field of both parents and children. The process of transforming the potential into the actual is called the "inner-family socialization activity. The family system level, or the family climate that measures the overall quality of interpersonal relationships within the family;. The parent-child subsystem level, or the educational style in dicated by parental behaviours and attitudes or authoritarianism.

Schneewind's applied structural causal modelling used latent variables for hypothesis testing and formulation. His model, which served as a guide for our own, and its variables are shown in figure 4. The data supporting the causal model linked extrafamilial measured by socio-economic status [SES], urban or rural location, and job experience and intrafamilial variables measured by family climate, and personal traits of the father and the son.

In another model in the same paper, he demonstrated that low socio-economic eco-context and rigid unstimulating job conditions of the father were associated with an authoritarian parenting style that produced sons with inferiority feelings and weakly internalized locus of control. The degree of commitment, help, and support family members provide for one another. The extent to which family members are encouraged to act openly and to express their feelings directly. The amount of openly expressed anger, aggression, and conflict among family members.

The extent to which family members are assertive, are self-sufficient, and make their own decisions.

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The extent to which activities such as school and work are cast into an achievement-orientated or competitive framework. The degree of interest in political, social, intellectual, and cultural activities. The degree of importance of clear organization and structure in planning family activities and responsibilities. Schneewind found that at the same level of family eco-context are critical differences in the inner-family socialization activity.

He concluded that "the psychological makeup of family life Family social wellness Measures for the evaluation of family functioning provide our major entry point into the study of family social health. Another set of instruments can be found in the coping literature Krause Many of the items in table 4. Only the first of the instruments, however - the Beavers-Timberlawn family evaluation scale - is based on observed measures, rather than selfreport, and is claimed to be objective, quantifiable, multifactoral, focused on the entire family, and relatively simple to administer and score.

Walker and Crocker conclude that "a global measure of family functioning that is well standardized and relatively simple to administer does not now exist and may never be developed. Rather than looking to create any single measurement tool that serves as a "gold standard," we believe that sensitive use of qualitative research and rapid assessment methods in developing countries should be able to yield a variety of culture- and situationspecific measures that may be represented by relatively simple indicators for specific research purposes.

Such research is actively needed, however, because the investigation of the dimensions of family functioning that are of greatest relevance to international development has yet to begin. References Aina, T. Zeitlin, K. Setiolane, and H. Lagos State, Nigeria. Beavers, W. Becker, G. A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge, Mass. Becker, W. Belsky, J. Benjamin, L. Blumenstein, P. American Couples: Money, Work, Sex.