A history of families, theorists, institutions and the

  A family is defined as a group consisting oftwo parents and their children living together as a unit. Other definitionsstate that a family is a social group, related by blood ties, marriage oradoption. Statics show that ‘There were 12.7 million married orcivil partner couple families in the UK in 2016.’ However other factors canimpact a child’s development such as lone parents, and divorced parents.

Inthis essay, I will be exploring how the history of families, theorists,institutions and the government have impacted the lives of young children andfamilies.   The term “nuclear family” was heavilyinfluenced in the 1960s. It is defined by two married parentsand their biological children living in the same residence. This allows the family to have more independencebut causes a lack of emotional support. This idea is also shown through Talcott Parsons ‘functional fit theory’ which states thatas society changes, the type of family mustchange to fit society. Parson(1955) believed that women should take on the expressive roles, providing careand security for children. Whereas the men should take on a dominant role andbe the breadwinner for the family. Parson approach also suggest that thenuclear family also fitted an industrial society because it kept separate theworlds of work and family.

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In comparison to this the Marxist view states that’… their central argument was that capitalist system exploits the free domesticlabour of the housewife through the domestic division of labour.’ (Fulcher, J; Scott,J 2011). This means that they believed that the workload should be shared andthere should be no divide between genders. This quote contradicts Parsonstheory on separating men and women and focusses on the family acting as a unit.The impact of this perspective is that the parents have more divided roles inregards to supporting their children.  Another important perspective isthe feminist perspective of families. Feminists have been criticising genderroles associated with the traditional nuclear family, since the 1950s.

The emphasison the nuclear family model often meant that each woman, was encouraged to be ahousewife and mother. The impact of this on the children is that they wouldhave a stronger attachment to the mother than the father and could cause achange in power as the mother would be more important. Feminists have alsocriticised the functionalist view which sees the family as an institution butrather argues that the view is focused on the gendered aspect of power in thefamily; it is the women who are responsible for the home and the children.  However, evidence shows that children look upto their mothers and often imitate their behaviour. It is crucial for mothersto set a positive example for their children.

Whenreading Crabb,S and Augoustinos, M (2008) article on ‘Genes and familiesin the media: Implications of genetic discourse for constructions of the’family.’ They state that ‘throughout history there hasbeen a growing diversity in family forms in western nations.’ (Crabb, S;Augoustinos M, 2008 p.303) This is represented through single parent,heterosexual blended families are increasingly common in today’s society. Theimpact of this reading is suggestive that as a society we have adapted theconcept of family and rather focused on how family can shape a child’sdevelopment.  Thenuclear family is also presentedthrough Bowlby’s (1969) ‘Theory of Attachment’ and ‘Maternal deprivationhypothesis.’ Attachment theory is defined by fourcharacteristics: proximity maintenance, safe haven, secure base, and separationdistress (Bowlby, 1969). Bowlby believedthat the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers can impact achild throughout their life.

Bowlby suggests that the role of the parent as acaregiver grows over time to meet the particular needs of the attached child. Theimpact of this is for the child to have constant support and security in theearly stages of their life. Later, that role is to be available as the childneeds help as they enter into the outside world. Once the child experiences thesecurity of physical closeness he or she will develop the courage to exploreaway from the primary caregiver. The role of attachment theory is for the childto go from pursing closeness to moving away from dependence on the caregiver.

This role of the caregiver is crucial for the child as it provides them withconstant support and security.   Followingon from this idea, Bowlby’s theory of maternal deprivation suggests thatchildren biologically are programmed to form attachments with others in orderto survive. When reading Vicedo (2011) article on ‘John Bowlby’s theory ofattachment in post- war America’ she states that ‘Bowlby further noted thatchildren’s need for a mother’s love had clear implications for the organizationof family life.’ (Vicedo, 2011 p406). This quote reinforces the idea thatBowlby believed that in order for a family to function a ‘nuclear family’ isthe most effective unit for the healthy development of children.  Bowlby theory of ‘maternal deprivation’ refersto the failure of the child to develop an attachment to a mother figure.

 He believed that the separation did not cause irreversiblelong-term damage if the child was provided with substitute maternal care. However,one of the consequences of maternal deprivation is that it can cause theindividual to have an inability to from attachments in the future.  However,one of the main critics of Bowlby’s attachment theory is Rutter (1981) who accused Bowlby of ‘not distinguishingbetween deprivation and privation – the complete lack of an attachment bond,rather than its loss.’ Feminists also critiqued Bowlby’s theory by sayingthat it focuses on motherhood and traditional families in which Bowlby underlinedthe importance of the child having a single first attachment figure whichcreates pressure on the mother.  Theimpact of the feminist perspective is that parents should not totally be heldresponsible for the way their child develops. When reading ‘The making and breaking of attachment theory.’ (Tizard, B,2009) suggested that ‘psychologist often criticised Bowlby’s theory suggestingthat his assumption that infants have only one preferred person, who is alwaysthe mother, the father’s role being to support her emotionally and financiallywas contested.

‘ (Tizard B, 2009). The impact of this criticism is that itsuggests that the infant is primarily attached to the mother, creating a senseof competition between the two parents.  However, in today’s society oftenthe parents both share the role of providing for the child and allowing thechild to become attached to both parents. Another criticism of Bowlby’s theoryof attachment is the assumption that mothers are naturally devoted or bonded totheir children and opens the door to blaming mothers when developmentaldifficulties arise.

 The impact of themother being a necessity for the child is that it could cause a divide to thefamily unit, if the baby becomes attached to just the mother rather than themother and father.     The impact of family in the livesof young children is also represented through institutions.  Within the first three years of their life’s,children’s interactive experiences with peers within the family unit varyacross cultural and social class groups. When reading Corsaro (2001) article on’Peer Culture in the Preschool’ it states that ‘… but over time childrendiscover their common interests, and a central theme of the peer culture ofnursery school children begins to emerge.’ (Corsaro, 2001 p.

20) This quotesuggests that as children progress into preschool they begin to explore theirenvironment, develop their needs to participate, create and maintain a peerculture. The impact of this institution on the family is that it allows thechild to begin to create a social identity and gain independence in their abilityto form new skills.  However, one couldargue that some institutions can suffer from ‘structural neglect’ whichsuggests that some institutions may not receive the type of nurturing andstimulating environment needed for normal growth and heathy development.   Another perspective ofinstitutions is the history of Early Education and Care and how this can affectfamilies and the lives of young children. Often social class has shaped viewsabout the provision of childcare. When reading Scheiwe and Willekens (2009)article on ‘The History of Early Education and Care Institutions in the UnitedKingdom.

‘ One particular quote that stood out to me was ‘The perception of therole of women and the nature of their obligations towards their children hasalways depended on income and class.’ (Scheiwe and Willekens, 2009 p.106) Thisquote suggests that a mother’s obligation is traditionally towards   theirchildren, however a family’s income can affect the child’s education. There wasalso a long- established tradition, in the upper and middle classes, of employingnannies for young children.

However, for the poor, who could not affordnannies, day nurseries were the only solution. The impact of these institutionson children is that they get extra emotional support and allows children tobecome attached to more than one primary figure.