Term Paper: Nature of Family

Pages: 8 (2419 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  Topic: Children  ·  Buy This Paper

Nature of Family

The dynamics of the family and the multifaceted nature of it provide the opportunity for a multidisciplinary approach to it. Biology, anthropology, history, literature and psychology can all provide at least a limited view, that if put together create a more holistic vision of the family, as it has changed and evolved through time. Each discipline has strengths and weaknesses with regard to identifying family dynamic and status. In the reading material that has been covered in this coarse, Parenting for Primates by Harriet Smith, Our, babies, Ourselves, by Meredith Small, Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, by Stephanie Coontz, Long Days Journey Into Night, by Eugene O'neil and You Can go Home Again by Monica McGoldrick, many of the disciplines mentioned above are represented. From this collection of disciplines and author perspectives a good amount of information can be learned. This work will briefly address how the information from the sources can be integrated, or is incongruent and briefly discuss what still needs to be learned to have a complete picture of the nature of families.

In Parenting for Primates Smith makes bold connections between humans and out primate cousins, with regards to the biological and psychological nature of parenting and family cohesion. The work is very interesting firstly because it makes such a bold statement about innate nurturing skills and then backs it up with knowledge based on the writer's work as a clinical psychologist. It is in fact interesting in and of itself that the author is both a practicing clinical psychologist and a primate biologist, the combination of scientific knowledge creates a cohesive integration that can be related to by the reader. One very interesting point smith makes, and then backs up with clinical anecdotes is that all the good things parents do in the primate world are similar, nurturing, responding quickly to distress, keeping children sheltered and such as mostly true across the board, her description of the basic formula is; "constant body contact, breastfeeding, and consistent, rapid, responsiveness" (67) in contrast Smith notes that maltreatment is idiosyncratic and human primates seem to be the worst culprits of it, in quantity and variety. (301-302) This observation could be explained by communication differences or many environmental cues that are present in the human world but are not in the primate world, but many years of scientific observation of both primate and human lends credence to Smith's claim. Additionally, the literature piece a Long Days Journey into Night, as well as many other pieces of literature that discuss human maltreatment of children seem to effectively prove Smith's point. Smith's work is focused mainly on the biological and psychological aspects of child rearing but does not always have a great deal to say about the family in general, though one could apply some of the basics in the work to a broader understanding of how these elements, of great import interact to alter the nature of the family in a more general sense.

In Our Babies, Ourselves Small also focuses on the child rearing aspect of family, as is suggested by the name, but she does so from a multicultural perspective (ethnopediatrics), combining anthropology, pediatrics and child development disciplines to review extensive cross cultural research on child-rearing. Small wishes to use this information to come to some conclusions about the outcomes of different culture specific child-rearing styles in relation to infant success/health and mortality.

Small describes the parenting styles of several cultures, including the Ache tribe of Paraguay, the Kung San society of the Kalahari Desert in Africa, and the American industrialized society, and many others. Small opens her work with a distinctive discussion of the evolution of babies and how understanding this biological evolution can give us a much better idea of the rights and wrongs of the manner in which we care for them. She describes the infant and the fact that in human form there is a distinctly long period of dependence that must be accepted and dealt with in a manner that is befitting of his or her biological growth. The work then goes on to compare and contrast cultural child rearing practices and the fact that the context of one's culture influences these practices, and in some cases with negative outcomes. One stark point Small makes is that Western babies cry more than other babies and that this is a result of their immediate environment, "The baby is responding to an environment that has been culturally altered; and for which it has not been biologically adapted." Small points out that though a certain disconnect from infants (less direct physical contact mostly), that is present in western industrialized nations offers parents greater freedom it come at a price to the infant. (155) Biologically and anthropologically speaking this is a point that is well worth making, but again this work deals mainly with child rearing and not the family in general. Small recommends that western industrialized nations may need to adopt cultural norms from others to alter the state of this situation, and in so doing there might be a much greater outcome, with regard to infant health, well-being and even infant mortality. An extended work that addresses a more life-long approach would be welcomed, say if the work extended the cultural comparison and contrast to older years in the child's life.

In Coontz's work Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage a very different perspective, from the two previous works is seen. Coontz takes a decidedly different look at marriage through a historical perspective. Coontz concludes through her work that marriage has evolved over the years to an institution that is less of an institution and more of an intimate relationship. Yet, the main point Coontz makes is that marriage is an evolving social institution with a few dominating themes that evolve with each era and culture. "Almost every marital and sexual arrangement we have seen in recent years, however startling it may appear, has been tried somewhere before." (2) Though Coontz's take is decidedly linier, through time, contrary to her main argument, the point she makes about marriage through history, form then to now has to do with the economics of marriage, "...marriage was not fundamentally about love. It was too vital an economic and political institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love." (7) While in contrast the modern take on marriage according to Coontz is a socially evolving partnership often based not on solely economic or political principles, though these issues do still have a part in marriage, but on personal choice and loving partnerships. "Over the past century, marriage has steadily become more fair, more fulfilling, and more effective in fostering the well-being of both adults and children than ever before in history. It has also become more optional and more fragile. The historical record suggests that these two seemingly contradictory changes are inextricably intertwined. Even more than love and marriage, fulfilling and fragile seem to "go together like a horse and carriage." (301) the point Coontz is trying to make is well made, as it describes the reason for the increased divorce rates, and the increased childrearing outside of wedlock, not as a breakdown of marriage, but as the opposite a reflection of marriage as more of a choice, and with more choices as Coontz states, people have a greater opportunity to make more good and/or bad decisions. (301) This historical perspective on marriage as it apples to the family is decidedly interesting and informative and it also directs some attention to alternative family structures that are resulting from increased choices, for partnership outside of marriage as well as diverse families that include all the possible varieties that are either recognized or marginalized but present nonetheless in the modern world, though this aspect could be addressed in a more general work not focused on marriage but on family and what the word has come to mean in the modern.

The work You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting With Your Family by Monica McGoldrick leans in the direction of the historical psychological discipline and discusses a great many issues about reinventing the family in adulthood, as a process worth going through. The work stresses that personal choices need to be guided by a greater, adult understanding of the origin of one's family. Genealogical research is described as a way to better understand the individual and gives the individual an opportunity for self-awareness. To guide the reader McGoldrick uses several famous family genograms, or family trees composed of three generations, as a guide to show that decisions are made on the basis of family history in many cases. McGoldrick even goes so far as to say that many of the repeated patterns of conflict in families, such as illegitimacy, alcoholism, sexual abuse and suicide have been hidden from modern descendants (140) and are worth looking at to form a better idea of why these issues… [END OF PREVIEW]

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