Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dysfunctional Families And Childhood Development

image by hortongrou, sxc.hu

How The Child Shapes Up Is In The Hands Of The Care-Givers

The child that you see there, bullying others? Being aggressive with the rest of the kids of the class? Taking perverse pleasure in breaking the rules of the class and the school? Having difficulty in concentrating on studies and flunking the exams repeatedly? Family therapists say one possible reason for this behavior is an environment at home that is disengaged. The family members do not share their emotions and feelings, whether positive or negative, intimacy is at its barest minimum, the child has never known the meaning of warmth and tender love and care, and the weather during breakfast and dinner is near-zero cold at the best of times.

image by memoossa, sxc.hu

Now let's look at this other child in the class. This child appears to be depressed, withdrawn, alienated, keeps to themselves, and requires a lot of prodding and probing to emerge from the shell. The child occasionally breaks into tears at the slightest provocation from peers, so the peers generally keep away, that is when they are not making fun of the child. The child is unable to connect either with peers or with teachers. According to family systems theorists, one probable psychological reason for this behavior is an outcome of a family environment where the family unit does not function as a team, but engages in excessive fault-finding and nitpicking, with bouts of hostile behavior between each other, and unpredictable and inconsistent display of warmth and intimacy towards the child.

image by 0odyssey0, sxc.hu

The above are two examples of children from dysfunctional families. The parents and other seniors evolve certain behavioral patterns in their intra-psychic personalities over a period of time due to various reasons, which patterns inevitably engulf the child, leading to developmental maladaptive behavior that the child begins manifesting.

image by memoossa, sxc.hu

Contrast these families with a family where the elders hold high regard and love for all those whom they are sharing the roof with. The child is treated with regard and respect; in just the same way an adult is treated. The child is involved in all group activities, to the extent that they can contribute. There is no putting down or insult or humiliation for the kid. Instead, appropriately positive behavior in the child is proactively sought out in order to shower praise and give approval. Indiscipline is handled with a firm hand, but gently and definitely without going overboard. Now will a child who comes to the school from such a home exhibit the kind of behavior that we saw in the earlier two cases?

image by harrykeely, sxc.hu

When two individuals decide to raise a family and bring forth a child, it is left to them to decide and work out how they are going to rear the child. Nobody from outside the unit gets to know exactly how this rearing is taking place. It is only when the child arrives in a social setting such as the school, where others get any inkling about how the parents or the care-givers went about the rearing task.

image by dgburns, sxc.hu

Shifting from dysfunction to cohesion is not all that difficult. The first step is introspection on how one has led one's life thus far, followed by an acknowledgment that the child who is presently growing in the household may have been negatively influenced because of it. The next step is to make a sincere commitment to make the shift. The job of the family therapist becomes much easier once the introspection, the acknowledgment and the commitment are in place.

image by bugbru, sxc.hu

[When a child begins growing from the cradle onwards, it is an enriching experience to watch their journey. One interesting and important milestone that is often overlooked is the moment when they begin to recognize themselves in the mirror. Psychologists conduct a test called the "Mirror Self-Recognition Test" or MSR to assess whether the child has begun to recognize themselves in the mirror or not. The process is so subtle as to escape attention. Similar is with introspection. We do not need to stand before a physical mirror to watch what has been going on within and with us, and what we are presently going through. But recognition of where we are right at this moment - is a prerequisite for growth to happen. And this happens very subtly. The article here explains: "From Self-Recognition To Self-Awareness To Self-Identity To Self-Actualization".]

image by kiddee, sxc.hu

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