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Stages of Parenthood

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on May 1, 2014

Parenting is a process by which parents and children grow and develop, each influencing the other throughout their lives. Parents move through a series of six stages from pregnancy, when they prepare for parenthood and the birth of their child, to the time when their child leaves home to enter the adult world (Galinsky, 1981). Parents assess their success as a parent during each of these stages.

Expectations for their child's behavior and development are measured against the child's actual behavior and development; a parent's self-image may shift as he or she moves through the different stages of parenthood. This information is based on Galinsky's interviews with over 200 couples (Galinsky, 1981). For better or for worse, being a parent changes an individual forever.

Galinsky's Six Parental Stages

Parents with more than one child can be in more than one stage at the same time. Adoptive parents and stepparents become parents after the first stage.

Image-making stage: Pregnancy

Parents prepare for changes in themselves, for new relationships with each other, and the responsibilities of this new life. Many questions are discussed. What will our baby need in terms of equipment, supplies, and space? How will our current schedule and general lifestyle be altered to support our baby's growth and development? Will we have any time for ourselves? How would we cope if our baby has cholic or serious health problems?

Nurturing stage: Birth to 18-24 Months or Autonomy

The major task at this stage is forming bonds of attachment with the baby. Parents attempt to meet the needs of the baby and balance this with other responsibilities involving spouse, jobs, and friends. Parents make decisions about child care. Do work schedules require child care or are work schedules flexible, allowing one of the working parents to be at home, or does one parent stay home full-time?

Authoritative stage: Two to four or five years

Parents nurture, guide, and discipline their child. Parents evaluate their effectiveness in establishing limits, communicating and enforcing rules, and allowing enough freedom for each child to grow and develop. Parents often restrict the child for his or her safety, but other times it may be for the safety of the parents' valued objects.

Interpretive Stage: Preschool Years through Adolescence

Parents teach their child about life and help him or her interpret the actions of others such as their teachers and peers. Parents are concerned with the increasing influences of peers and help their child to understand the consequences of his or her actions. When parents' expectations are different from the actual behavior of their child, they question the effectiveness of their parenting methods or themselves as parents.

Interdependent Stage: During adolescence

Parent-child relationships continue to evolve. Parents involve their teenager in more decisions. Ultimate responsibility still rests with the parent.This is a stressful time for the adolescent, who is searching for identity and independence from parents and for parents struggling to give up enough control to facilitate their teenager's move toward independence and still support and protect their child.

Departure Stage

Parents begin the process of evaluating their roles as a parent and a person as their child prepares to leave home. New relationships emerge between parent and child when the adult child leaves home. Parents need to redefine their own identities.

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