In spite of radical changes in the American pattern of family life, the family is still the "most significant part of the child's 'social network'”.
*Bossard and Boll have emphasized what the home means to the child:
Home is the place the child comes back to, with his experiences. It is the lair to which he retreats to lick his wounds: the stage to which he returns to parade the glory of his achievements: the refuge he finds in which to brood over his ill treatment, real or fancied.
Home, in other words, is the place to which one brings the everyday run of social experience, to sift, to evaluate, to appraise, to understand, or to be twisted, to fester, to be magnified, or ignored, as the case may be.
For many years, psychoanalysts have stressed the importance of early family experiences on the child's behavior and attitudes. According to Freud, neuropathic parents who overprotect the child and smother him in affection awaken in him "a disposition for neurotic diseases". Flügel points out that too severe or too careful parents make the child rebellious, not only toward his parents, but toward all adult authority. The emphasis on "momism" since the Second World War has stressed the psychological damage caused by maternal dominance and maternal overprotection .
More recently, studies of maternal deprivation where the babies were separated from their mothers and institutionalized have revealed how important a role early family relationships play in the child's development. While some of the detrimental effects of maternal deprivation may be counteracted if a satisfactory mother substitute is provided, there is evidence that this is often not adequate, principally because finding a satisfactory substitute is not always easy or even possible. The effects of the loss of mother or father during early childhood as reflected in depressive states as the child reaches adulthood.
Because the home is the child's first environment, it sets the pattern for his attitudes toward people, things, and life in general Furthermore, because the child identifies with the family members he loves, he imitates their patterns of behavior and learns to adjust to life as they adjust. While the pattern established in the home will be changed and modified as the child grows older, it will never be completely eradicated.
Areas of Influence. A quick survey of the areas of the child's life on which family relationships leave their mark will show how widespread their influence is.
1. The Child's Personality. In a home where parents are overanxious and over concerned about their children, where discipline is inconsistent, and where there is worry, anxiety, and lack of a sense of humor, children are likely to be highly emotional and subject to frequent outbursts of temper. Children who have non organic speech disorders often come from homes where there are disturbed family relationships which make the child emotionally insecure and maladjusted.
Maladjusted children are usually the product of maladjusted parents. As Teagarden has pointed out, "All manner of behavior deviations can be, and often are, accounted for by the subtleties of home relationships. Children whose mothers are poorly adjusted to marriage are likely to have more, and more serious, behavior problems than children whose mothers are better adjusted to their marital roles. Eating problems, nervous mannerisms, enuresis, and a host of similar problems are characteristically found in children whose family situations involve domestic discord.
Children from broken homes or homes where parents are "emotionally divorced" develop personality patterns that interfere with good adjustments to people outside the home. Prolonged and repeated absence of one or both parents from the home also adversely affects the child's adjustments. Children who have been deprived of a normal homelife by wars, natural dis asters, industrial dislocation, and "social and psychosocial factors" are affected physically, intellectually, and emotionally. When parents ignore their children and devote little time to them as they grow older, their poor adjustments frequently lead to delinquency. If family relationships are seriously disturbed, children are likely to become neurotic or delinquent. Even though children do not fully comprehend the meaning of their parents' behavior, they "sense" intuitively the psychological climate of the home-whether or not all is well and how their parents feel about them.
Favorable family relationships, by contrast, lead to a healthy self-concept and good personal and social adjustments. It has been found that children's motivations are similar to those of their parents, especially during the preschool years. Even after the peer group influence begins to dominate the child, it does not overshadow the importance of family relationships to the child's developing personality.