Family Dynamics and the Changing Home Environment: Infancy Through Adolescence

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Family Dynamics and the Changing Home Environment: Infancy through Adolescence
Liberty University
Counseling 502
Dr. Jimmy Myers
Cynthia S. Dawkins
December 4, 2011

Abstract
Changes in the home environment such as marital conflict, divorce and poor parenting can adversely affect family dynamics, and children especially, can develop both mental and physical health problems. Research finds a correlation between parental separation and the internalizing and externalizing problem behaviors in children; this includes childhood sleep problems due to marital conflict. Children can help define and influence the dynamics of marital conflict. Studies show that in early childhood, parent-child relationships are critical to a child’s healthy development especially the mother-child relations and maternal depression can cause poor parenting leading to emotional and behavioral problems. Child maltreatment is associated with alterations in stress physiology, increased risk for emotional and behavioral issues and increased risk for mental health issues in adolescence. Positive and supportive co-parenting can buffer against the negative effects of marital conflict and divorce especially in low-income and at-risk families. Successful co-parenting relationships can positively affect a child’s socio-emotional development and mental health.

Family dynamics and changes in the home will affect the development and well-being of a child throughout infancy or adolescence. Home environments which are dysfunctional in nature, experiencing marital conflict, and separation/divorce or poor-parenting can cause problems within a child’s development including mental and physical issues. Some children will internalize their problems and suffer from anxiety and depression. Others will outwardly externalize their behaviors through aggression and conduct problems; preteens are especially at risk for antisocial behavior (Taylor, Purswell, Lindo, Jayne, & Fernando, 2011; Sentse, Ormel, Veenstra, Verhulst, & Oldehinkel, 2011). In the Barry & Kochanska (2011, p. 237) study, they point out that dysfunctional parenting, parental depressive symptoms and marital conflict are associated with childhood adjustment and development. Consistently, studies show that marital problems adversely affect child development and adjustment. As Rhoades, Leve, Harold, Neiderhiser, Shaw & Reiss (2011) state “the association between marital hostility and child adjustment is clearly established” and “pathways from marital hostility to child adjustment have been well studied, research[ed] to date” (p. 282). And Teti & Cole (2011) further add that “faulty parenting is frequently cited as a major causal factor in the development of child psychopathology” (p. 625). Emotions and Family Dynamics

In Barry and Kochanska (2010) study, the authors look at family emotional well-being, the critical nature of the parent-child relationship and how this impacts a child’s development. Emotions are given and received through individuals and family relationships are shaped by them; family dynamics are influenced and develop from these relational emotions. The emotional affects are multi-dimension and reach all family members reciprocally. One approach known as transactional family dynamics looks at mutual influence processes between all family members (Schermerhorn, Chow & Cummings, 2010, p. 869). Although few studies have been conducted, the transactional family dynamic modal theorizes that if there are marital problems and conflict, the focus is not exclusively on the husband and wife’s problems, but how the family children also influence the marital relationship’s conflict. In one rare study, it was found that “in families with high levels of marital conflict, child externalizing problems predicted increases in marital conflict” (Schermerhorn et al., 2010, p. 869); thus supporting the reciprocal nature in families. In support of other...
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