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Essay Paper on Family Relationships

by Andrew Stanford 

Family relationships are one of the main areas of study by psychologists with families being society main structural units. It is a common knowledge that children learn from parents and imitate their behavior. Research consistently shows that the consequences of parental influences on children’s psychological and emotional development are complex with both positive and maladaptive behaviors being able to influence every family member (Cummings, 1994). Social learning theory suggests children may learn dysfunctional behavior patterns by observing their parents (Bandura, 1973). Parental conflicts may affect many aspects of children’s functioning with the outcomes of these negative influences being traced to adulthood. On the contrary, if a person’s relationship model is biased on his or her parents and it was a positive experience, then it could produce a secure attachment style, higher optimism about marriage, and the person would be more satisfied in their relationships (Simpson, 1990).

It is important to identify and understand to what extent the parental behavior model affects the future family oriented behavior of children. When conjectured that new family forming strategies and relations developed in that family are influenced by the ideas perceived in childhood, it is necessary to study the peculiarities and apply the findings in practical psychology in order to promote happy and strong families. Parenting behavior as it influences partner finding and family starting behavior in children has been a matter of our interest in this work. We decided to focus on exploring tendencies to the extent to which children imitate the relationships practiced by their parents with regard to family model and methods of bringing up children. We have reviewed the following articles that deal with the psychological concepts that are of interest to us.

The study conducted by a group of Dutch and Swedish researchers – Geertjan Overbeek, Ad Vermulst, Thao Ha, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels, Håkan Stattin – in 2005 hypothesized that (a) low-quality parent-child relationships would be related to more conflict and low-quality communication with parents in adolescence, that in turn, (b) parent–adolescent conflict and low-quality communication would be linked to low-quality partner relationships in young adulthood, and that finally, (c) low-quality partner relationships in young adulthood would be predictive of social-emotional maladjustment in midlife (Overbeek et al., 2005). Participants of the study constituted 212 children from families with diverse social and economic status background, who were followed from birth into adulthood. Assessment was made via structured interviews and questionnaires. The participants were interviewed at different stages in life, with the last interview being held, when the participants were 37 years old. Data collections were performed close to the individuals’ birthdays (±14 days). The measures were tested at different years of the participants’ lives and are as follows: parent–child relationship quality, parent-adolescent conflict, opposite sex worries, partner relationship quality, emotional maladjustment. Pearson correlations were computed in order to examine bivariate associations between the tested variables, and based on this input data for a multivariate–longitudinal model using an SEM approach was obtained. Parceling technique and maximum likelihood estimation in the Mplus program were used to construct some data that was missing because of small sample size. Finally, side effects were calculated —Cohen’s f2—based on the multiple correlation squared values in the SEM analyses. The study suggests that early adversity in the parent-child bond, and as a result low-quality parent-child communication in adolescence, affect the quality of partner relationships in early adulthood. The findings of the study seem to prove the cross-relationships hypothesis and demonstrate that parent-child relationships might be an important forecaster of later partner relationship quality.

The second article dwells upon the findings that parent-child relationships are influential for children development and adjustment in adulthood as parenting serves as a moderator between this adjustment and the psychological atmosphere in the family. The study of American researchers Karen J. Kaczynski, Kristin M. Lindahl, Neena M. Malik, and Jean-Philippe Laurenceau deals with this issue. In 2004, the researchers examined parenting as a mediator of associations between marital conflict and child adjustment, and parent gender as a moderator of the pathways that link marital conflict to child outcome. Taking into account a strong direct effect of marital conflict on child adjustment, the scientists hypothesized in their study that parenting would partially mediate the relation between those two phenomena. They also argued that the parenting influence of fathers as a moderator is stronger then of mothers (Kaczynski et al., 2004). Data was collected from 226 children and their parents in a form of interview sessions. The measures for the study were grouped into the demographic information, marital conflict measures, parenting measures, and child behavior measures. At the outcome of the study, it was ascertained that contrary to what the researchers predicted, parenting behavior fully mediated the association between marital conflict and child maladjustment in the conducted sample.

The material covered in these articles proves that the understanding of parenting behavior and the parent-child relations in childhood and adolescence are a predictor of children social adjustment in their independent grown-up lives. Based on former research indicating a strong effect of psychological atmosphere in the family on child adjustment in adulthood, we can hypothesize that children tend to copy parents marital behavior scenarios and upbringing styles in building their own family models.

The family forming scenarios as influenced by the relationships within children’s families is the area in which we would like to conduct further research. The study will examine influential role of microclimate in the child’s family and trace behaviors in forming family relationships style similar to that in children’s family and utilizing the same upbringing methods dominant in the child family. The research is aimed to discover patterns of family models, patterns of partner choice, and so on, produced by different parenting forms, such as one-parent families, families where children are raised by widow/widower, families with unstable and conflicting parents’ relationships, families where children parents are divorced and so on. The study can demonstrate whether the child’s family is indeed the example that is followed. The results can help the parents understand why their children may not be willing to base their relationship model on their parents’ relationship. The study would cover the two generations of families which will make the time span of the research last for about forty years. The similar measures as discussed in the studies in the articles reviewed above can be used in our research. The study is hoped to demonstrate certain patterns in family modeling that are formed on the basis of behaviorist concepts adopted in childhood.

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Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning theory analysis.Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Cummings, E. M., & Davies, P. T. (1994). Children and marital conflict: The impact of family dispute and resolution.New York:Guilford Press.

Kaczynski, K. J., Lindahl, K. M., Malik, N. M., & Laurenceau, J. (2004). Marital Conflict, Maternal and Paternal Parenting, and Child Adjustment: A Test of Mediation and Moderation. Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 20, No. 2, (pp. 199–208).

Overbeek, G., Vermulst, A.,Ha, T., Engels, R. C. M. E., & Stattin H. (2005). Parent–Child Relationships, Partner Relationships, and Emotional Adjustment: A Birth-to-Maturity Prospective Study. Developmental Psychology, Vol. 43, No. 2, (pp. 429–437).

Simpson, J. A. (1990). Influence of attachment styles on romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 59, (pp. 971-980).

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