Do Parents Matter

Within today’s society and the way the family is portrayed within the media, the family life has changed considerably. The family setup and how parents now discipline their children and their skills to do so, have come under attack. With the increase of children committing crimes and anti social behaviour orders being handed out like sweets its seems that almost everyone is looking for someone to blame for the up rise in bad behaviour with the children of our country.

There has been blame pointed at the lack of discipline given out by the courts, the television and media, how family’s are structured in today’s society’ compared to years ago and the majority of blame lies with the parents. This essay will look at “Do parents matter” as this is a huge issue and has vast implications I am going to look at the issue of Divorce.

I will be looking at the theories of attachment and separation and how children who are involved with divorce cope and if the issue of gender, culture or ethnicity differs ahead to the outcome of “Do Parents Matter” The government’s reports that roughly 50% of all marriages in today’s society fail, reasons for the failure include poor communication or lack of communication, financial issues and even the circumstances of the marriage all contribute to the ending of what once seemed the perfect relationship.

Within these failed marriages are children, confused and unsure of what the future holds for them. Unsure of how to deal with the split, having to choose which parent to leave behind and which parent to stay at residence with, decisions like these can cause trauma within certain children, thus the question is raised “Do parents matter? ” According to John Bowlby, Attachment is a special emotional relationship that involves an exchange of comfort, care, and pleasure.

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John Bowlby devoted extensive research to the concept of attachment, describing it as a “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings” Bowlby shared the psychoanalytic view that early experiences in childhood have an important influence on development and behaviour later in life. Our early attachment styles are established in childhood through the infant/caregiver relationship. In addition to this, Bowlby believed that attachment had an evolutionary component, it aids in survival.

The propensity to make strong emotional bonds to particular individuals is a basic component of human nature” (Bowlby, 1988) Bowlby believed that there are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment: Proximity Maintenance – The desire to be near the people we are attached to. Safe Haven – Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat. Secure Base – The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment. Separation Distress – Anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.

With James Robertson he identified three stages of separation response amongst children, Protest to the mother figure for re-attachment (related to separation anxiety) Despair and pain at the loss of the mother figure despite repeated protests for re-establishment for relationship. (related to grief and mourning), and Detachment or denial of affection to the mother-figure. (related to defence). These phases are universally seen in children who go through separation, either by loss of parent/s due to death, divorce or through boarding school.

Bowlby identified that infants need one special relationship for internal development. No variables have more far-reaching effects on personality development than a child’s experiences within the family. Starting during his first months in his relation to both parents, he builds up working models of how attachment figures are likely to behave towards him in any of a variety of situations, and on all those models are based all his expectations, and therefore all his plans, for the rest of his life. ” (J. Bowlby, Attachment and Loss (1973, p. 369)) Children’s parents, who separate in the younger years of the child, are more likely to suffer under Bowlby’s theory, due to the absent of the early attachment bond.

Bowlby in 1951 produced a report which argued that infants form a special relationship with their mother which is different from any relationship which they form with any other kind of person. Attachment is formed with the mother within the first six months of life and if the attachment or bond is broken either by death or separation the child would suffer considerable consequences. Although the attachment to either parent is still a considerable one, Bowlby’s work looks at the mother in particular or a significant caregiver.

Bowlby theory of separation has great strengths within the family structure, it explains how early attachment is essential for a stable life span of the child. “The Nature of the Child’s Tie to His Mother” (1958), “Separation Anxiety” (1959), and “Grief and Mourning in Infancy and Early Childhood” (1960) are Bowlby’s first formal statements of attachment theory, building on concepts from ethology and developmental psychology. Bowlby theories of attachment are followed closely by Byng-Hall and Mary Ainsworth.

Byng-Hall suggests that the family contributes to attachment by providing a secure family base. He’s definition of secure base is “a family that provides a reliable and readily available network of attachment relationships, and appropriate caregivers, from which all members of the family are able to feel sufficiently secure to explore their potential”. Byng-Hall suggests that there are two factors associated with a secure family base. First, he suggests that there is a shared awareness that attachment relationships are important and care for others is a priority in the family.

Second, he contends that family members should support one another in providing care for each other. The weakness factors that undermine a secure base in families include fear of losing an attachment figure or actual loss of an attachment figure. A child clings to one caregiver and rejects relationships with other caregivers. Byng-Hall refers to this as “capturing” an attachment figure. Turning to an inappropriate attachment figure (i. e. , if one parent is not supporting the other parent, a child may be used as an attachment figure). Conflict within relationships particularly abusive relationships.

Negative self-fulfilling prophecies, there is an expectation that losses from other generations will be repeated. Mary Ainsworth “Strange Situation Procedure” study confirms the theory of Bowlby and investigates how a child makes an attachment to its mother or main caregiver. Ainsworth’s research revealed key individual differences among children, demonstrated by the child’s reaction to the mother’s return. Ainsworth categorised these responses into three major types. Anxious/avoidant—the child may not be distressed at the mother’s departure and may avoid or turn away from her on her return.

Securely attached—the child is distressed by the mother’s departure and easily soothed by her on her return. Anxious/resistant—the child may stay extremely close to the mother during the first few minutes and become highly distressed at her departure. When she returns, the child will simultaneously seek both comfort and distance from the mother. The child’s behaviour will be characterised by crying and reaching to be held and then attempting to leave once picked up. Using the Strange Situation procedure, many researchers have studied the development of child attachment to the mother and significant caregiver.

However, the weaknesses show there continues to be much debate about the origins of the child’s reaction in the Strange Situation, and about what factors influence the development of an infant’s attachment relationships. The attachment and separation theory is apparent when Divorce occurs within the family home. Children involved show emotional upset to a parent that leaves the residential home, thus causing a disturbance to the dynamics of the family structure. Behaviour of children is displayed in a number of formats from acceptance to the extreme of being issued an anti social behaviour order.

The development of a child is determined by the nature of the environment and the nurture that has been given. The different stages of attachment are related to the age of the child, thus gender, culture, ethnicity and socio-economic status are not considered, however all of these areas do influence the situation considerably. Children are known to favour one parent more so than another, Divorce within a white European family compared to a black West Indian family can have extreme differences. Due to culture beliefs’ and family pressures.

West Indian and Asian family divorce rates are far lower than the European statistics. Ethnicity of a family also influences the up bringing of a child and how the parents are treated and perceived. Bowlby theory states that the mother or main caregiver is needed for a stable upbringing. Younger children in particular have a hard time dealing with the changes that are occurring at this time. A child’s reaction to this depends upon their age and their ability to comprehend what is happening. Consistency is very import to younger children and the trauma of their parents separating is extremely difficult for them to handle.

The loss of routine, the change in daily habits and the loss of friend’s school and other familiar patterns is especially difficult. When a father is excluded from the family home, reports show that the majority of crime and anti social behaviour are committed from one parent families, studies of young criminals show that over 70% of juveniles imprisoned come from fatherless homes, once the influence of a strong male character disappears the child reacts in a negative manner, acting up, causing a disturbance are some of the symptoms a child goes through.

It appears that father absence may have different effects on boys and girls. Boys tend to experience more academic and social disruption when fathers are not present in the household. Father absence challenges girl’s emotional stability but does not seem to undermine their school performance. A boy who lives alone with his mother does not have a male role model in the home to teach him how to shave or kick a football or ask a girl out for a date, all of these things are extremely important to our social integration.

Children who grow up without fathers in the home seem to have more likelihood to experience, drug and alcohol abuse, poverty, lack of opportunity to succeed, sex at an early age, pregnancy, behaviour problems, crime involvement, dropouts from school. These experiences are more likely to occur during adolescence because changes are happening so fast in this age group. Much supervision is needed at this time and is hard to enforce without a dad in the house, especially with teenage boys. As teens enter these years they tend to be closer to the same sex parent and look in that direction for guidance.

Girls are stressed and likely to be depressed having no father in the home. “Stepmothers are found to have more problematic relationship with stepchildren; while children, particularly girls, also experience higher stress when they are living with their stepmothers. (Jacobson, 1987 in Visher ; Visher, 1993). Visher ; Visher (1979) suggested that teenage daughters identify strongly with their mothers and resent any woman who replaces their mother for the father’s affection. Teenage daughters also exhibit much competitiveness with their stepmothers for their father’s affection.

These findings suggested that there are strong situational dynamics at work that create special relationship problems for stepmother families. Difficulty between the children’s mother and stepmother has also been mentioned as a possible contribution to the greater stress in stepmother families. (Visher & Visher 1988)” Boys are more likely to act out and become discipline problems which upsets the mother. They try to take over the role of the dominant male in the household. Girls show their longing for a father figure by getting “boy-crazy” and can tend to end up with men who treat them badly.

Girls need a father to demonstrate how a man acts in a family relationship. It seems that girls who have to guess pick the wrong boys and men. ” Biblarz and Raftery (1999) show that mother-absence is much more detrimental than father-absence to children’s educational and occupational attainment. They find that once parents’ socioeconomic status is taken into account, children raised by single mothers are much better off than children raised by single fathers or fathers and stepmothers, and are just as likely to succeed as children raised by both birth parents.

Biblarz and Raftery conclude that the pattern of effects across family types and over time is consistent with an evolutionary perspective which emphasizes the importance of the birth mother in the provision of children’s resources (Trivers 1972). According to this view, children raised by their birth mothers do better than children raised apart from their birth mothers. Furthermore, being raised by a single birth mother is better than being raised by a birth mother and step-father since step-fathers compete with children for mother’s time and lower maternal investment. Dealing with children who suffer from the separation of a loved parent is difficult.

Social Services and Social Workers have to treat and understand the child’s needs in relation to its personal case. The Children’s Act 2004 assists with the legal framework and legislation of needs but it is that of a Social Worker and their ability and knowledge that assists with the emotional needs of the children, thus enabling them to deal with the separation to the best of their ability and co-ordinate any addition services that may be required.

Behaviour, socialisation skills, and how we treat other people are pronominally learnt through our parents. It is the nurture of a parent that encourages a child to develop into a citizen that society requires and needs. It is fully reported that Divorce causes catastrophic effects on certain children; I believe that this is true due to non communication from the parents involved, what, how and the effects the children experienced are due to how the situation was tackled. Parents have an integral position in children’s lives whether they own biological offspring or offspring obtained via a separation or new relationship.

Children from a Divorced separated family background are more likely to experience difficulties later on into adult life, male children having anger related issues, female children having trust and insecurity problems all transpiring from the divorce of the parents. These extremely worrying issues can be overcome with the communication, knowledge and experience of the parents in educating their children and showing a positive influence in their lives, with the theory of Bowlby and Ainsworth, I would like to conclude that in my opinion, yes parents do matter.

References

http://www.litnotes.co.uk/mass_media.htm

http://www.sociology.emory.edu/tdowd/SOC769rsyllabus.htm

http://www.psychology.sunysb.edu/attachment/online/inge_origins.pdf

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