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Familial Factors Affecting Childhood Development and Growth.




Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by Joshua Isibor

There are many Familial factors affecting childhood development and growth. These familial factors can alter the childhood environment, also. No two children can grow exactly in the same environment, although identical twins are nearly approximate in this.

The 4 Familial Factors Affecting Childhood Development and Growth.

1. Family size:

The size of the family has a decided impact on the child. In a small family, more emphasis is placed on the individual development of the children.

Parenting is intensive rather than extensive, and there is constant pressure to measure up to family expectations. Children’s development and achievement are measured against that of other children in the neighborhood and social class.

Adolescents in small families identify more strongly with their parents and rely more on parents for advice. They have well-developed, autonomous inner controls as contrasted with adolescents from larger families who rely more on adult authority.

Children in a large family are able to adjust to a variety of changes and crises. There is more emphasis on the group and less on the individual. Cooperation is essential, often because of economic necessity.

The large number of persons sharing a limited amount of space requires a greater degree of organization, administration, and authoritarian control. The control is wielded by a dominant family member; a parent or an older child. The number of children reduces the intimate, one-to-one contact between the parent and any individual child. Consequently, children turn to each other for what they cannot get from their parents. The reduced parent-child contact encourages individual children to adopt specialized roles in an attempt at recognition in the family.

Discipline is often administered by older siblings in large families. Siblings are usually better attuned to the constitutes misbehavior, and sibling disapproval or ostracism is frequently a more meaningful disciplinary measure than parental spankings. In situations such as the death or illness of a parent, an older sibling assumes responsibility for the family at a considerable personal sacrifice. Large families seem to generate a sense of security in the children fostered by sibling support and cooperation. However, adolescents from large family are more peer-oriented than family-oriented.

Firstborn children are more achievement-oriented than children born later and exhibit strong drive and ambition. They usually receive more physical punishment than younger children and are allowed to show more aggression toward their younger siblings.

They have stronger consciences and are usually more self-disciplined, inner-directed, and prone to feelings of guilt, which may account for higher intellectual achievement.

Firstborn children are better represented in college populations than the younger siblings. Although they are more likely to have tasks imposed on them, the oldest child seems to experience fewer frustrations in the family setting than does a younger sibling. They are better planners and tend to identify with parents and to measure themselves by adult standards.

Younger children reflect a decrease in the amount of parental attention and anxieties. On the whole, mothers are warmer toward the youngest child than the oldest and middle child, and the youngest child receives little physical punishment.

The youngest child is less dependent than a firstborn and more apt to be left to manage things for himself. Younger children are usually more backward than the firstborn in language development and articulation. They appear to be less tense, more affectionate, and more good-natured than the firstborn, and they tend to identify more with the peer group than with parents. Second-born children seem to have more numerous interests.

The older and middle children are usually assigned more tasks in the family than the younger ones, and the middle children more so, than the older ones. The middle children appear to occupy the most difficult position. There are more demands on them for help with household tasks, they are praised less often for good behavior, and they receive less of the mother’s time for pleasurable activities.

One of the reasons for these differences is that the first child is most likely to be the most wanted child. The firstborn child, born to relatively inexperienced parents, the recipient of all the parental uncertainties, unskilled experimentation, and a great deal of adult attention and pressure. Parents expect more from him than from later children, tend to be tenser, and worry more about him.

Parents have had the experience of one child, are more relaxed when the second arrives, and they tend to be less strict and Just preoccupied with the parental role. The close intense attention that the eldest receives contributes to his adult orientation.

The age difference between siblings affects the childhood environment but to a lesser extent than does the sex of the siblings. The arrival of a sibling has the greatest impact on the older child, and a 2- to 4-year difference in an age appears to be most threatening When the older child is very young. His self-image is too immature to be threatened. At an older, he is better able to understand the situation and, therefore, less likely to see the newcomer as a threat, although he does feel the loss of his only-child status.

In general, the narrower the spacing between siblings, the lesser is the children influence one another especially in emotional characteristics, the wider the spacing, the greater the influence of the parents. Also, younger children tend to identify with older siblings. Consequently, they assume some of the personality characteristics of the older child.

Girls with brothers have more masculine characteristics than girls raised with sisters. They are on the whole, more aggressive, ambitious, and perform better on tests of intellectual ability, probably related to the more stimulating environment created by competitive, aggressive boys.

Boys with older sisters, especially if the age difference is slight are generally less aggressive and daring than boys raised with older boys, probably a reflection of the identification process and the more power exerted by the older siblings.

2.Working mothers:

A great deal has been written and conclusions have been made regarding the effects of mothers working outside the home. The number of women in the labor force has increased steadily during the past 2 decades and shows every indication of continuing.

Mothers work for several reasons; Most work for purely economic reasons, either because they are the sole support of the family to supplement a husband’s inadequate income, or to provide the family with a higher standard of living.

Others work as a response to the boredom of housework or simply to meet their own ego needs. No matter what the mother’s motivation, the consensus is that deleterious effects on the children are related to the quality of the mother-child interaction rather than the quantity of time spent with the children.

The mother’s relationship to the rest of the family depends to a large extent on her own feelings and reactions to working and to her job. Although most mothers feel some guilt about leaving their children in the care of others, those who feel secure and happy in their work usually reflect this attitude in the home and in relationships with other members of the family.

Sometimes, the mother feels guilty about leaving the children so that she can pursue a career or a job, particularly if she enjoys the outside activity. She may compensate for the guilt feelings with overindulgence toward the children, the children may feel more insecure and take advantage of her vulnerability with demanding behavior.

On the whole, children of working mothers are self-reliant, do better in school, and show relatively few ill effects of the separation. Many factors are related to the effect that a mother’s absence has on the children: the age of the child (very young children feel the impact of the mother’s absence more than older children), the attitude of the father toward the wife’s employment, and the regularity with which she is away from the family.

Delinquency rates appear to be highest in families where the mother works sporadically. However, these are predominantly children from the lower classes, where other factors are also in operation. The mother’s emotional stability is a more important factor in these situations.

3.Absent father:

Fathers have been referred to as “absent fathers” because they are away from the home for the greater part of the day. Even though the trend is toward equilateral responsibility for home and family, chances are that when he is at home he is fatigued and only too glad to abdicate all responsibility for the children to the mother (unless she too, is working outside the home).

Our concern here, however, is with the family without a father because of death, divorce, desertion, illegitimacy, or involuntary separation such as military service, job demands, jail, and so on

The most serious consequences of parent absence are related to the separation of the child from the mother in infancy and early childhood. However, there are some effects on child development when a parent (usually the father) is absent during childhood.

The primary effect of the absence of either parent from the home is in the difficulty in adjustment and development of sexual identity. This is more marked when the parental absence occurs early in the child’s life and when it is the same-sex parent.

Girls from homes where fathers are absent are more dependent on their mothers and show some anxiety about relationships with males during adolescence. Boys from homes without fathers tend to be less aggressive, are more apt to have emotional and social problems, and demonstrate cognitive patterning more similar to that of girls.

Overprotectiveness, extreme indulgence, and often prolonged physical contact with the mother over a period of years may contribute to serious sex identity problems in male children. Children from homes in which one or both parents are frequently absent are highly susceptible to peer group influence.

This appears to be related to a lack of attention and concern at home rather than to a positive attraction of the peer group. Also, the peer group serves a role identification function for young males from homes where the father is absent or ineffectual


Authorities agree that marital factors within the home contribute to children’s development. Children from a happy, relaxed atmosphere in the home are less likely to have a negative outlook than are those from stressed homes.

The causes of marital strife are varied, but the effect of the parents’ inability to adapt to influences, the adjustment and personality growth of young children. It is difficult to determine to what extent the child’s maladjustment is related to the family atmosphere leading to a divorce or to the divorce itself.

It is known that divorce is not good for children, however. children who are under the continual stress of intact but unhappy homes feel more secure and happy after the marital relationship is dissolved.

Children who felt that their homes were happy before the divorce have a more difficult adjustment. Factors present in the divorce situation itself exert harmful influences on children’s psychological adjustment.

The child who becomes involved in divorce has feelings of terror and abandonment. As the parents become involved with their own feelings and concerns, they are less available and have less to give the children. The children see themselves apart from the family, feel alone and isolate, and long for consistency and order in their lives.

Since a function of parenthood is to provide for the emotional welfare of the child disruption of the family structure. This often engenders strong feelings of guilt in the parents. Some may feel resentment toward the child who makes the situation more difficult, and they may attempt to compensate for overprotective behavior and excessive concern for the child’s welfare.

The child, also, has guilt feelings as though he has failed or is being punished for past misbehavior. The interpersonal tension created by parental insecurity and anxiety is communicated to the child who does not have the ego resources to cope with these feelings of tension and the vague threat of a change in his world.

Although, there are counseling services available to parents, very little such help is available for children. Children need to be taught that relationships change and how to deal with the new form that the relationship takes. During a divorce, parental capacity is diminished. The parents are much too preoccupied with their own needs and life changes to be supportive of their children.

Moreover, they need to know what to do, and there are not acceptable models on which they can rely. Many parents do not tell their children about the divorce either because they do not know what to tell the children or because they believe that the children will not understand.

The impact of divorce on children depends on the age of the child and the quality of parental care during the years following the divorce. Although a child at any age is fondly affected by divorce, the greatest amount of stress is suffered by preschool children, adolescents,s and school-age children who are better able to cope with the separation.

Egocentric preschoolers, who see and understand things only in relation to themselves, assume themselves to be the cause of parental distress and interpret the separation as punishment. They feel sadness and a strong feeling of responsibility for the loss of the absent parent.

Moreover, they consciously fear that they may be abandoned by the remaining parent. Consequently, it is essential to establish some kind of stability for these children; otherwise they will convert their energies to restabilization rather than to growth and development.

They need frequent, repeated, and concrete explanations of what is going to happen to them how they will be cared for, and assurance that something new will take the place of the old and that they will not be deserted. In order, that they will not imagine things explanations, such as where they will live, who will prepare their meals when the parent is at work, and when they will see the absent parent again, should be specific.

They need a focus on reality.

School-age children and adolescents are able to deal with parental separation better than younger children. They feel intense pain and loneliness, their ability to learn is affected since they are unable to focus on learning, and somatic complaints, especially in school-age children, and emotional disturbances in adolescents are observed. Often, they must move to an unfamiliar environment and a new neighborhood and form new relationships, in addition to coping with the alteration in their family structure. They almost invariably wish for the parents to reunite.

To predict the impact of divorce on any specific child, it is important to anticipate how much love and understanding will continue after the parent separation and how much genuine concom and affection exist for the child.

Other complications include efforts on the part of one parent to subvert the child’s loyalties to the other, abandonment to other caregivers, and adjustment to a step-parent.

In 90 of divorce cases, the mother receives custody of the child: this has an effect on the male child’s identification with a father figure. In addition to all, the other ramifications of the family without a father and the single-parent family; Many divorced mothers with small children move in with parents, other relatives, or friends in some kind of dependent or sharing arrangement.

In general, better-educated parents and those in the upper strata of society are less apt to divorce, separate or desert each other, the incidence is highest in the lower social classes.

There are numerous other factors that significantly influence the childhood environment such as a handicapped or chronically ill child in the family, death of a sibling or parent, the advent of a stepparent and sometimes stepsiblings, and the experience of a foster child, who often must adjust to several families.

In conclusion, these listed are the Familial Factors Affecting Childhood Development and Growth.

Thank you.


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