Submitted by: Karen Stowe
From Chapter 14 The Child in Context: Family Structure, Child Care, and Media
What constitutes a family has evolved from the nuclear family of a married mother and father and their children to many different family structures. However, the most common is still the nuclear family with two-thirds of all children residing in this family situation (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Other family structures can contribute to negative child outcomes if protective factors are not available.
In non-nuclear family structures there is greater potential for problems to arise with children. Issues such as externalizing, medical, attachment, internalizing, and academic problems are common for children in divorced, single-parent, teen mother, cohabiting, and stepfamilies. Problems in divorced or single-parent families can be due to inadequate resources including time to spend with children and money (Scott, DeRose, Lippman, and Cook, 2013). Some of these problems can be compounded by other mediating circumstances associated with the family structure, such as conflict, poverty, instability and family dynamics (Kim, 2008) Instability in particular has been shown to negatively affect a child’s well-being in the short and long term (Nauert, 2010). Despite the negative outcomes that are associated with these family structures children are more likely to have positive outcomes if nonresident fathers continue to be involved and parenting quality is high (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
While family structure absolutely affects child outcomes, parenting quality has a greater impact. Children who live with parents who use authoritative parenting are more likely to avoid negative outcomes even if their family structure is atypical. While parenting quality is more important than family structure in determining child outcomes, it is often influenced by family structure (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
Teachers cannot influence family structure , but they can provide protective factors for children. In order to help children, teachers can provide the following supports:
- Be an alternate attachment figure.
- Teach students social and emotional skills.
- Helps students experience success in the classroom by developing academic skills.
- Use authoritative classroom management.
- Involve parents in education, particularly at the school level.
As family structures have changed so has the role of the mother within the family. With more two income families and more single parent households more mothers work at least part time. Maternal employment has an impact on child outcomes. The effect on the child depends on many factors involving the mother and her job. Children are more likely to have positive outcomes associated with their mother working if the family is able to leave welfare, the mother is single, the mother believes it is good for her children, and she spends more nonwork hours with her children. Certain situations can lead to negative outcomes such as the mother being middle class, working long hours, working before her children reach age 3, finding work unrewarding, or having a low quality job (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
It is important to recognize the impact of family structure and maternal employment on a child in your classroom. Non-nuclear families and certain maternal employment situations can increase risk factors for children involved, which can increase problems for those children. Providing those children with the appropriate protective factors will help lead them to favorable outcomes.
Bergin, C. A., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Cognitive Ability: Intelligence, Talent and Achievement. Child and Adolescent Development In Your Classroom. Australia: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Kim, K. (2008). Academic Success Begins at Home: How Children Can Succeed in School. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved from: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2008/09/academic-success-begins-at-home-how-children-can-succeed-in-school
Nauert, R. (2010). Loss of Traditional Family Structure Affects Kids’ Wellbeing. Psychcentral. Retrieved from: http://psychcentral.com/news/2010/09/30/loss-of-traditional-family-structure-affects-kids-wellbeing/18963.html
Scott, M., DeRose, L., Lippman, L., and Cook, E. (2013). Two, One, or No Parents? Mapping Family Change and Child Well-being Outcomes. Child Trends
- What are some strategies that you have used to get parents involved in their child’s education?
- How has your own family structure impacted yourself or your children?
- What are some strategies you have used to work with children who are struggling with their family structure?
- Do you know of children who based on their family structure could have problems, but are doing well? Why do you believe they are doing well?