Influence of Children on Parents (page 2)
Our culture traditionally ascribes to children the role of learner. Children and adolescents are thought to need numerous learning experiences to prepare them for adulthood. They are the objects of adults’ intensive socialization efforts. The relationship between parents and children focuses in many respects on the configuration of the adult as teacher and the child as learner. From this viewpoint, there is support for maintaining the unidirectional model of socialization.
Our culture also constructs the concept of children as people who are in need of adults’ protection. Children obviously need assistance in learning the many skills considered necessary to their effective functioning as adults. Today, children are dependent on parents for a longer time than they were earlier in history. The relationship between parent and child has become one of the last human interactional relationships in which the use of social power by an adult is largely unquestioned. Because of the inherent teacher-student quality of this relationship, the power of adults is accentuated in interactions with children. In addition, the greater physical size and strength of adults also contribute to the greater use of their power over children. According to many psychologists and sociologists, this has caused the child to become something of a victim.
Power may not be the culprit, but rather the way in which it is used. Some adults use power to control and manipulate, rather than to facilitate, children’s growth and development. This causes difficulty in the relationship, especially as children grow older (Ambert, 1992).
With the advent of family systems theory, which describes interactions within family relationships as having a reciprocal effect upon participants, researchers have begun to acknowledge that children have an impact upon their parents’ behavior (Ambert, 1992). Initial work points strongly to the effects that children can have upon adults’ lives in at least 11 areas: (1) parental health; (2) adults’ activities; (3) parental employment status; (4) use and availability of family financial resources; (5) parents’ intimate relationship; (6) parents’ interactions; (7) parent’s community interactions; (8) parental personality development; (9) parents’ values, attitudes, and belief systems; (10) parents’ life plans; and (11) adults’ feelings of having control over one’s life.
These effects are perhaps even more broad than are outlined here. We may wonder why it has taken so long for behavioral and social science to acknowledge the impact of these kinds of influence by children on adults’ lives. Perhaps this is because it has not been socially proper for adults to admit that children can influence them (Ambert, 1992).
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