Families come in all shapes and sizes. In this lesson, we'll examine what makes a family, as well as some common types of families, including nuclear, matrifocal, extended, and blended families.
Kayla is a happy, healthy kindergartener. She's growing and learning every day. When she was a baby, she couldn't do much but cry and eat. But now, she can run and skip and count and even read a few words. She can talk to her mother about things because she can speak in full sentences. She's come a long way since she was a baby!
In the first eight years of life, children grow and develop in many different ways. They get bigger and learn to walk, which is part of their physical development. They learn to speak and read, which show language development. Socio-emotional development leads them to being able to understand their own emotions and those of others.
All development is a combination of genetics and environment. Partly, children develop because they are hardwired to do so. But they also grow and learn because the people around them are able to support them in it. And because of the amount of time spent with them, a child's family is a central part of his or her development. But family is much more than just the people someone lives with. Let's look closer at several types of family systems: nuclear family, matrifocal families, extended families, and blended families.
When I say 'family,' what did you picture? If you're like a lot of people, you probably pictured a mother, a father, and children who are not yet adults. That's what Kayla's family used to be like; her father and mother and she all lived together when she was a baby.
A family consisting of a mother, a father, and underage children is called a nuclear family. Traditionally, nuclear families were seen as the best option. People believed that children who grew up in a heterosexual, two-parent family were the happiest and most well-adjusted children.
However, studies have shown that nuclear families are no better or worse than many other types of families. It is really about the family itself, not what makes up the family. A happy, healthy single-parent family can be more beneficial to a child's development than a nuclear family that is made up of unhappy or abusive members.
Kayla's family used to be nuclear, but when she was four, her father was in a car crash and died. Now it's just Kayla and her mother. They're doing okay, but they are no longer a nuclear family.
A family consisting of a mother and her children is called a matrifocal family. You can remember the word 'matrifocal' by thinking about 'matri-,' which means 'mother.' The matrifocal family centers around, or is focused on, the mother. Matrifocal families are more common than patrifocal families, or families consisting of a father and his children. Partly, this is because in divorce, mothers have traditionally gotten custody of the children.
Divorce or death can create a matrifocal family through making a woman a single mom, but traditional nuclear families can also be matrifocal if the father is away from home for extended periods of time. A man who is gone for months at a time, perhaps due to work obligations, might be in a two-parent family, but it is matrifocal because of the absence of the father. Like a nuclear family, a matrifocal family can be a positive or a negative influence on a child. It really depends on the members of the family and how they interact.
After Kayla's dad died, her mom needed some help. Luckily, they have a large extended family, or group of relatives outside of the immediate family. Kayla has grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who are all around to help. Not only that but Kayla also has a much older brother, who is an adult and lives on his own. Even though he is Kayla's brother, he's still considered to be part of her extended family because he does not live in the same house as she does.
Extended families offer several benefits for children who are developing. As they did after Kayla's father died, an extended family can offer emotional support to the child. And because they are a larger group, they can offer more variety of experience and knowledge than a nuclear family unit. This is especially beneficial for the intellectual development of a child.
Now that it's been a while since Kayla's dad died, her mom is starting to date again. She's met a really nice guy who is divorced and takes care of two kids of his own. If Kayla's mom marries her boyfriend, Kayla will be part of a blended family, or a family unit made up of people who are not all blood relatives. Blended families involve step-parents, step-siblings, and/or half-siblings.
As with extended families, blended families can offer more variety of experience and knowledge than a traditional nuclear family. And, as with other types of families, the individual members and how the family works together as a unit are the best predictors of whether the family will have a positive or negative effect on the child.
Families come in all shapes and sizes. Nuclear families are made up of a father, mother, and underage children living together under the same roof. Matrifocal families consist of a mother and her children. Extended families are made up of blood relatives outside of the immediate family, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. Finally, blended families consist of family members who are not all blood relatives, such as step-parents, step-siblings, and half-siblings. The type of family is less important to a child's healthy development than the members and the family unit itself.
At the end of this lesson you should be able to:
- Identify and describe four types of families.
- List two factors that determine whether a family will have a positive or negative impact on child development