Effects of Life Events & Family Crisis

Instructor: Gaines Arnold

Gaines has a Master of Science in Education.

This lesson looks at how life events and stressors can cause a family crisis. The lesson identifies different types of stress, explores the differences between families who go into crisis and those who don't, and discusses means of overcoming family stress.

Stress Piling Up

The problems just seemed to keep piling up. Some people say that bad events, or good ones, come in threes, but Tom saw a string of stressful events and poor outcomes that stretched way beyond three. He and his family were enduring more than their fair share of stress. It started when Janie was born with Down Syndrome. They loved her and were overjoyed to have her, but care was a constant stress on their finances. They had to move in with Tom's in-laws, who saw Tom as the irresponsible teen he used to be. He could never do anything right in their eyes. Tom's employer had to reorganize, and though he kept his job, it was at a lower pay and with fewer hours. Now he was seeing his wife less and less as she tried to juggle college classes, therapy for Janie, and everything else. The stress piled up even more when he learned that his wife was pregnant again.

The Stress of Life Events

Stress is a constant in most lives, but most people develop effective means of coping when they are faced with everyday stressors. Such things as traffic, poor weather conditions, and an angry boss are temporary and soon handled. However, there are other, more far-reaching, problems that cause a kind of stress that never quite lets up. When an individual or a family experiences multiple stressors, or a string of stressors, the stress can be difficult to overcome.

The Blessing of a Family

When people are faced with life events that become negative, they often turn to family for support and strength. Within the family unit, no matter how that family is constructed, are familiar people who generally want to see other members live fulfilling, stress-free lives. When outside forces become too much to deal with individually, it is possible to gain comfort from family members who know each other intimately and care about one another.

A family can give its members strength, but it can also be a cause of stress itself. Some of Tom's stress is external, but much of it is occurring within his own family. He does get support from his wife, but it is not enough to allay the fear and depression caused by the seeming enormity of the combined stress.

How Life Events can Lead to Family Crisis

Family crisis can be defined as a state in which relationships are strained to the point that they may eventually break up the family unit. Many different types of events can lead to a crisis within a family, and how those crises affect the family has to do with family makeup. In other words, while some families fall apart if one member speaks too loudly at the dinner table, others will stay together despite death, terminal disease, financial ruin and other storms. Why is this?

The glue that holds the family together is the key. As with anything else, if the adhesion (or ability to stick to something) is weak, then family crisis will likely have a greater net negative effect. Strength of family bond has to do with the character of the members, the crises they have already been through and survived, their belief in one another, and other factors.

Tom has the stress of a new family, a new special needs baby, poor financial standing, living situation, and pressure from his job. When all of this is added together, it is enough to cause any family unit to falter. If he doesn't deal with these separate crises, his family unit (he, his wife, his baby, and the baby on the way) could face separation. How can he avoid this situation?

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