1. Discuss three different family structures that exist in today’s society.
In today’s society, children live in a variety of family structures. The image of a `normal` family as being children with two parents married to each other is no longer true. In 2007 it was estimated that around 40 per cent of marriages end in divorce, affecting some 140,000 children a year.
It is important that early years practitioners understand that there are many different types of family structure in which children grow up. Most family structures are able to provide the main ingredients for good parenting: love, consistency and physical care.
This is the family structure that is often portrayed as `normal` by the media. Parents and their own children live together, with parents having most of the responsibility for caring for their children. Some contact with grandparents and other relatives may talk place, although many nuclear families live in a different town from their relatives.
Some families may live by travelling from one place to another. There are two main types of travelling families: gypsies and new age travellers.
Gypsies are now recognised by European law as being an ethnic minority and as such are protected from discrimination. They have their own language and cultural identity, and generally travel as extended families.
New age travellers are often groups of younger people who wish to find and alternative way of living.
Both groups see themselves as separate from society.
Some children live with one natural parent and a same- sex step-parent. Fears among the general public that this structure could influence a child’s future sexual identity have not been proven.
2. Outline four factors that can put pressure one family.
While most families provide fantastic care and support for the children, sometimes families can come under pressure.
The way in which parents cope with stress depends on their life circumstances. When parents are under stress they may find it harder to respond to their children’s needs or manage their behaviour. Some stresses that families find them under are short term, such as changing accommodation, while others are long term, for example long-term illness. These may affect the parents’ ability to cope.
Many parents are able to adapt to changes in their lives and will use their friends and families for support. Other parents may not have a strong network, for example they may have recently moved to a new area. Early year’s practitioners need to understand the pressures families can face as they may need to support such families, either by offering a friendly ear or by providing information about services.
Common factors affecting families are:
Some families may live on a low income. This might mean they cannot afford to clothe and feed their children as they would wish. Studies that have looked at families on low income have established a link between poverty, poor health and depression. Living on a low income will also affect the type of housing that is available. Parents may find themselves living in cramped temporary accommodation which is unsuitable for children and makes it harder for them to cope.
When parents lose their job, they not only lose their income but can feel that they have failed in some way. Tensions between parents can be heightened as a result of one or more parents being unemployed.
Divorce and separation
Parents who are recently separated from their partner often find it difficult to manage on lower income as well as cope with their own feelings. The situation is often made worse because children’s behaviour alters as they react to the change in circumstances.
Parents can be put under great emotional strain if they suffer the bereavement of a friend of close family member, particularly the death of a child or partner. They may find it