Sunday, 21 October 2007

Developmental Psychology: Family and relationships into adulthood

Family and Relationships in Adulthood

Revolves around sex.
Reproduction is the central concern for any species.
Many human societies have marriage of one form or another as the institution within which reproduction is located. Religious rituals and social laws govern who can marry whom and who can have sexual contact with whom.

We now look at some similarities and differences in the systems and expectations of marriage, as well as what happens when marriage fails.

Marriage or Partnering
Towards the end of the twentieth century marriage has become less popular, with an increasing number of people choosing to co-habit instead.
About ¾ of people who divorce subsequently remarry – suggesting it is not the institution of marriage they dislike, but the person to whom they were married.

The U-Shaped Curve. – Helen Bee (1998)

Helen Bee (1998) suggests the u shaped curve to represent high levels of relationship satisfaction in the early years dropping to lower levels during the ‘children at school’ stage, and rising again later in retirement.

Psychometrics refers to attempts to measure psychological aspects of human functioning.
These are all problematic because humans have all kinds of ‘hidden agendas’ therefore how do we accurately measure marriage satisfaction.

Retrospective case studies of individual partnerships or a larger survey with many respondents. The case study approach would provide high quality and detailed insights into relationships but not lend itself to testing and measuring or to generalising findings. Surveys however, are a very blunt instrument.
Apart from the obvious difficulties of finding a sample to test there are also difficulties with:
Devising questions
Deciding how to record and measure the answers;
Ethical Issues raised.

· In addition psychological studies of long term memory have shown that the process of recollection causes a mental reconstruction of the meanings the event had for us at the time – interpreted by the state of knowledge one has at the time of recall. The result is that what we recall isn’t exactly what happened.
· Forgotten details are invented and added, those that are inconsistent with the version we are recalling are forgotten and the significance of our own and other people’s contributions are altered. So people do not necessarily remember accurately.
· Research that employs the retrospective approach will have to be interpreted very cautiously indeed.
Marriage or Partnering:
Marital Trends
· 1996 had lowest rate of marriage since 1917.
· Corresponding increase in cohabitation, but most common reason for cohabitation ending is still marriage

Why marry:
· Practicalities:
o Companionship & Security
· Erikson (1980) cites marriage as a way to solve psychological crisis of intimacy versus isolation.

Marital Satisfaction:
· Bee (1998) cites the U shaped curve of marital satisfaction which occurs because of satisfaction being at its highest before children are born declines after marriage reaches a low when children are at school and rises to peak in retirement.

Cohabitation
· Bee (1994) – Cohabiters that go on to marry are more likely to be dissatisfied with their marriage and go on to divorce later. She suggests that co habitu├ęs are more likely to challenge the norms and status quo and therefore more likely to terminate an unsatisfactory marriage.

Cross cultural comparisons of marriage
· Levine et al’s cross cultural research (1995) noted for example that individualist cultures use love as an essential requirement for marriage.
o People living in more collectivist cultures see companionship and sharing as more important.
· Schumm et al. (1998) – Comparisons of marital satisfaction in men and women persistently show that western women are less satisfied with their marriages then man.
· Kamo (1993) discovered the quality of marital interactions was regarded as important in both cultures of American and Japanese spouses. However, he also found that age and satisfaction were negatively related in USA but not in Japan. Similarly husband’s income mattered more in Japan than in USA to wives.
· Levine et al. (1995) - Individualistic cultures attach more importance to marriage than collectivist. Also love mattered in cultures with higher standards of living, higher marriage and divorce rates and lower fertility rates.

Marital status, gender differences and mental health
The benefits of marriage
· Regards marital status and health, Bee (1998) showed that compared with married individuals they enjoy better physical health and markedly better mental health.
Single men are worst off in these respects and married men fare best with married and
single women falling between these two extremes.

· Argyle & Henderson (1985) argue that it is the quality of the relationship that seems to contribute most to this effect a close confiding relationship matters more than simply living in the same house or having a sexual relationship. The arrival of children requires relatively greater adjustment for women than it does for men.
· Berk (1998) and Bee (1994) summarize a number of factors that correlate with marital quality and stability including length of courtship, similar family background, higher social class, approval from friends and family, stable marital patterns in extended family, effective communication and secure financial and employment status. These are co relational, however, so offer no guarantee of marital success.

Parenthood.

· Once the function of marriage.
· In the west the major responsibility for childcare has been left to the mother, and whilst babies can be a source of great joy often lead to exhaustion, consequently people often express less satisfaction with their marriage than they do their partners.
· Sadly for some the strains of parenthood will be sufficient to break up the partnership.


Stages of parenthood:
· Wide variations in the ages at which parents typically have their children, and in the support they receive from other family members, that it is almost meaningless to talk about the ‘stages of parenthood.’
· Bringing up a child can be very expensive.
· For most couples parenthood seems to improve their relationship and enjoyment of life, despite the exhaustion caused by demanding young children.
· Bee (1994) reported that the happiest couples were young parents with few financial pressures. In spite of this 80 to 90 percent are happy and say that parenthood had improved their relationship.

Cultural differences in parenthood:

Nickel et al. (1995) showed a general decrease in marital satisfaction after the birth of children in Germany, USA, Austria and Korea.
Berk (1998) states that in non western cultures, where parenthood is highly valued and the extended family is supportive, the decline in satisfaction levels are less marked.

Turner & helms (1983) suggest a number of reasons why adults choose parenthood:
Ego expansion – sense of importance and purpose;
Creativity – sense of achievement;
Status and conformity satisfaction – fulfilling the expectations of your culture;
Control and authority – over your dependants;
Love and affection – both given and received;
Happiness and security – through the creation of a stable family unit.

These remain remarkably stable across cultures. Barnes (1995) adds that in some cultures the child’s ability to work and / or contribute to the families’ income is critical

Parenthood and Gender Roles:
Different cultures have different expectations of mothers and fathers.
Terry et al. (1991) found that mothers express greater satisfaction in their marriages when they perceive that their partner is contributing equally to household and childcare routines
Olsson et al. (1998) found that new parents agreed the metaphor of the spider’s web described the tension in their changed relationship – the mother spider carrying the baby on her back and the father only enters the web on her terms.
Levine (1976) suggests that the roles nee to be redefined and revitalised so that the more of the satisfactions of parenthood are open to men and women (as well as more of the strains.)


Divorce:

One of the most traumatic life crises we are likely to meet. This is almost always true for one partner than the other.
Steven Duck (1981) suggested that divorce is more likely where:
The couple married too young;
They have low socio economic status;
Where they came from different backgrounds;
Where one partners parents were divorced.
In addition:
If either / both of them felt unable to express or achieve their needs within the relationship;
Deception;
Boredom;
Moving house / location to one where they felt uncomfortable.

Marital status is correlated with mental health:
Argyle & Henderson (1985) found that divorced or separated people were the most likely to become ‘mentally ill’
Cochrane (1983) argues that divorced are most often admitted to mental hospitals, with married people the least in each case (Although there are gender differences.)

Stages in the divorce process:
Bohannon (1970) suggests six stages in the divorce process:
Emotional – Marriage collapses, there is conflict and antagonism;
Legal – Marriage contract is dissolved;
Economic – decisions are made over money and property;
Co-parental – custody of access to children is decided;
Community – Relationships with friends and family are adjusted.
Psychic – There is adjustment to single hood and autonomy is regained.

Parents and children in divorce:
Many things will determine the precise effects that divorce will have on a child:
How close was the child to either parent?
How old is the child and how much can it understand?
What is the relationship between the parents following the divorce?

Mavis Heatherington et al. (1993) identified the ‘crisis phase’ and the ‘adjustment phase’.

The crisis stage:
Can be made better or worse by the actions of the other parent and the behaviour of relatives.
M A Fine and colleagues found that it depended on the relationships the child had with each of its parents in the year before their divorce. If a boy was closer to his father, he will feel the loss more intensely.
The adjustment stage:
Children become accustomed to their new circumstances. May continue to blame one parent or the other and wish the two back together again. Anxieties reduce with the passage of time.

Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly (1980) also claim that ‘an unhappy couple may divorce for the good of the children’ and that ‘an unhappy marriage is also unhappy for the children.’
Michael Rutter (1979) showed conflict between parents may lead to emotional disturbance in children.

Cultural differences and similarities in divorce:
Religion plays a dominant role in determining people’s behaviour in some cultures.
For adults, divorce related disorganization tends to decline after two years depending on the degree of financial pressure, number and age of children, and the emotional support available
Kaffman (1993) found that in Israeli Kibbutzim, because of their collectivist, non materialistic and simple life style, the legal parenting and economic obstacles that usually exacerbate stress in divorce in more individualistic and materialistic cultures were relatively minor considerations.

References:

Helen Bee (1998) - Suggests the u shaped curve to
represent high levels of relationship satisfaction in the early years dropping to lower levels during the ‘children at school’ stage, and rising again later in retirement.

Erikson (1980) - Cites marriage as a way to solve
psychological crisis of intimacy versus isolation.


Bee (1994) - Cohabiters that go on to marry are
more likely to be dissatisfied with their marriage and go on to divorce later. She suggests that co habitu├ęs are more likely to challenge the norms and status quo and therefore more likely to terminate an unsatisfactory marriage.

Levine et al’s cross cultural research (1995) - Noted for example that individualist
cultures use love as an essential requirement for marriage.
People living in more collectivist cultures see companionship and sharing as more important.

Schumm et al. (1998) – Comparisons of marital satisfaction
in men and women persistently show that western women are less satisfied with their marriages then man.

Kamo (1993) - Discovered the quality of marital
interactions was regarded as important in both cultures of American and Japanese spouses. However, he also found that age and satisfaction were negatively related in USA but not in Japan. Similarly husband’s income mattered more in Japan than in USA to wives.

Levine et al. (1995) - Individualistic cultures attach more
importance to marriage than collectivist. Also love mattered in cultures with higher standards of living, higher marriage and divorce rates and lower fertility rates.

Bee (1998) - Regards marital status and
health showed that compared with married individuals they enjoy better physical health and markedly better mental health.
Single men are worst off in these respects and married men fare best with married and
single women falling between these two extremes.

Argyle & Henderson (1985) - Argue that it is the quality of the
relationship that seems to contribute most to this effect a close confiding relationship matters more than simply living in the same house or having a sexual relationship.

Bee (1994) - Reported that the happiest couples
were young parents with few financial pressures. In spite of this 80 to 90 percent are happy and say that parenthood had improved their relationship.

Nickel et al. (1995) - Showed a general decrease in marital
satisfaction after the birth of children in Germany, USA, Austria and Korea.

Berk (1998) - States that in non western cultures,
where parenthood is highly valued and the extended family is supportive, the decline in satisfaction levels are less marked.




Turner & helms (1983) - Suggest a number of reasons why
adults choose parenthood:
Ego expansion – sense of importance and purpose;
Creativity – sense of achievement;
Status and conformity satisfaction – fulfilling the expectations of your culture;
Control and authority – over your dependants;
Love and affection – both given and received;
Happiness and security – through the creation of a stable family unit.

Barnes (1995) - Adds that in some cultures the
child’s ability to work and / or contribute to the families income is critical
Terry et al. (1991) - Found that mothers express greater
satisfaction in their marriages when they perceive that their partner is contributing equally to household and childcare routines.

Olsson et al. (1998) - Found that new parents agreed the
metaphor of the spider’s web described the tension in their changed relationship – the mother spider carrying the baby on her back and the father only enters the web on her terms.

Levine (1976) - Suggests that the roles nee to be
redefined and revitalised so that the more of the satisfactions of parenthood are open to men and women (as well as more of the strains.)
Steven Duck (1981) - Suggested that divorce is more likely
where, the couple married too young; they have low socio economic status; Where they came from different backgrounds; Where one partners parents were divorced.
In addition if either / both of them felt unable to express or achieve their needs within the relationship; Deception; Boredom; Moving house / location to one where they felt uncomfortable.

Marital status is correlated with mental health:
Argyle & Henderson (1985) - Found that divorced or separated
people were the most likely to become ‘mentally ill’
Cochrane (1983) - Argues that divorced are most often
admitted to mental hospitals, with married people the least in each case (Although there are gender differences.)

Bohannon (1970) - Stages in the divorce process
suggests six stages in the divorce process:
1. Emotional – Marriage collapses, there is conflict and antagonism;
2. Legal – Marriage contract is dissolved;
3. Economic – decisions are made over money and property;
4. Co-parental – custody of access to children is decided;
5. Community – Relationships with friends and family are adjusted.
6. Psychic – There is adjustment to single hood and autonomy is regained.

Mavis Heatherington et al. (1993) - Identified the ‘crisis phase’ and the
‘adjustment phase’.
The crisis stage:
Can be made better or worse by the actions of the other parent and the behaviour of relatives.
M A Fine and colleagues found that it depended on the relationships the child had with each of its parents in the year before their divorce. If a boy was closer to his father, he will feel the loss more intensely.
The adjustment stage:
Children become accustomed to their new circumstances. May continue to blame one parent or the other and wish the two back together again. Anxieties reduce with the passage of time.

Judith Wallerstein and Joan Kelly (1980) - Also claim that ‘an unhappy couple
may divorce for the good of the children’ and that ‘an unhappy marriage is also unhappy for the children.’
Michael Rutter (1979) - Showed conflict between parents
may lead to emotional disturbance in children.
Kaffman (1993) - Found that in Israeli Kibbutzim,
because of their collectivist, non materialistic and simple life style, the legal parenting and economic obstacles that usually exacerbate stress in divorce in more individualistic and materialistic cultures were relatively minor considerations.



References of note:
Concepts to note:

Define these terms:
· Adjustment Stage In Divorce
· Case Study
· Crisis Stage In Divorce
· Cross-Cultural Research
· Empty-Nest stage of parenting
· Psychometrics
· Retrospective Research
· Survey
· U Shaped Curve


What do they say or do?

· Argyle and Henderson
· Bee
· Berk
· Bohannon
· Cochrane
· Hetherington
· Levine et al.
· Mead
· Terry et el.
· Valliant and Valliant

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