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A basic unit of the society

It is was once said that the family is a basic unit of the society and with time it has proven to be true in that the factors that bedevils the family end up affecting the society as a whole because the society and the family bear a part whole relationship. Taking the analogy of the body and its parts, we can clearly understand how the family problems or joys also become the joys or problems of the society. The body is a whole and it has units such as a hand, leg, head, etc which coordinate their functionalities to aid the body function as a whole.

If a leg is hurting, there are changes that will be noted in the whole body’s functionality even though it is only one part (the leg) which is affected. Similarly, the family can be likened to the leg and the whole society, to the entire body. If the leg (family) is experiencing problems, then the entire body (society) will automatically feel the impacts of the leg’s problems because the two are connected (family builds up society just the same way the leg is part of the structure of the body).

This paper seeks to critically reflect on and discuss the particular changes that affect families, the family life and family structures utilizing cross cultural comparisons wherever possible. It further analyzes the possible consequences of these changes on children, families, the development of family as a unit of society, the child policy and the delivery of services for children and families. There are a number of changes that affect the family in terms of its lifestyle, its structure, the children or even children policies, services to children and families etc.

In other words a single change affects a wide spectrum of family aspects. These changes vary markedly ranging from social, socioeconomic, economic, health and environmental changes among others and not forgetting conditions or issues that can be seen as changes themselves or seen to bring change. These issues include things like death of one parent, health issues such as HIV/AIDS in one of the parents etc.

The particular changes and/or change-creating issues that affect family aspects named above include things like divorce or separation, death, economic changes (bankruptcy or wind fall), health changes (HIV/AIDS condition, mental illnesses, Cancer etc), civil war, natural catastrophes (such as tsunami, floods etc) and environmental changes (e. g. when a family moves from one state or city to another among others. Each of these changes affects the family greatly. Each of these is considered separately as per: • How it affects family (family life and structure) • Its consequences on the children, the family and the family development

• How it impacts the child policy and delivery of services to children and families. Economic changes and some of the other changes named above are known to affect the family in a strongest way possible. The most acute effect on family comes from divorce and in a way all the other changes named above may or may not lead to divorce and therefore we shall cover the divorce issue considerably more than all the other changes. In fact the entire essay shall look at the effects of divorce, separation or family reconstitution of the family on the children and the policies dealing with family structure.

A formidable number of scholars have conducted numerous studies, especially in the past two decades, which highlight the negative impacts of changes in family structure especially on the children’s well being. Interestingly, almost all the studies conclusively show that the children stemming out of families affected by separation, divorce or family reconstitution are likely to perform poorly in studies and are also more likely to suffer psychologically hence exhibit behavioral problems as opposed to children stemming from intact families with both the biological parents present.

The empirical results got from these studies have also shown that the effects (psychological and behavioral effects) on children mainly originate from the issues preceding the separation or divorce but most of the effects also result from the fact that the family structure is now separated and more unfavorable realities of life lie bare. Children whose parents are separated are exposed to a risk of living in poverty in that the one parent who is granted custody of the children may not be in a position to cater for the children fully.

Living in poverty has other implications for the child in that the child may suffer from psychological disturbances leading them to drugs and other behavioral problems (Amato, 2005). Further, it has been established that the fathers who are less likely to be given custody of children especially when divorce or separation takes place are not only exposed to poverty risks but also may never remarry. Divorce creates economic challenges for the family which only one parent may not be able to handle.

Therefore, changes in family structure, especially divorce, affects children, the parents and the entire family and proceeds to not only expose the entire family and family members to poverty risks but also makes the members and the entire family vulnerable to poverty related challenges. Still on the economic effects of divorce, also affects children policy and the services rendered to the children and the family as well.

It should be well understood that, in US, eligibility policies and services such as food stamps, cash welfare, health insurance and many more are all tied to the composition of the family and thus the policy makers have decided to not only react to family changes but also offer influencing advice on individuals’ decisions about such issues such as marriage, childbearing and even divorce. Furthermore, both policies on poverty and family structures are tightly linked in that a woman who bears a child before marriage is greatly associated with potential poverty.

As stated earlier, other changes such as economic changes may lead to divorce which in turn leads to other unfavorable effects on the family. However, these changes have their own effects on the family. For instance, poverty has been noted to increase the likelihood of bearing children outside wedlock. It also leads to socio-psychological effects on the family especially demonstrated when such a poor family can’t readily and freely associate with members of those families considered to be rich.

It is obvious that the children in a broken family will experience more difficulties ranging from the economical to educational. The effects that come with a broken family have an economical component as seen from the foregoing part of this paper. Besides the fact that divorce or separation exposes the children to poverty risks, it has been noted that children who come from broken families or a family in which there is only on parent supporting it perform relatively poor in their studies as compared to their counterpart. This has been explained in terms of the emotional component involved in breaking up of families.

This creates psychological disturbance in the children and it is obvious that in that state of psychological and emotional mess the child will never concentrate in studies. This phenomenon not only affects children whose parents divorced or were separated but also a child in a step family (one who moves in with one parent when that parent remarries). Generally, without even venturing into deep detail, most of the studies conducted have shown a clear correlation between family structures and the children’s educational outcomes. Another potent issue as far as this topic is concerned is the issue of child abuse and neglect.

Though child abuse occurs in all family set ups, there is an indication that its prevalence is high especially in the broken poor families. In this case, two changes in the family structure contribute to bring forth unfavorable effects on the family members especially the children. These two factors are poverty and separation/divorcee which of course may work alone to create the effect or they may combine. First, when a family breaks, the family members are exposed to poverty which in turn not only induces psychological but also behavioral changes in the especially in one of the parent who stays with the child.

A good example of such behavioral change is the use of drugs or substance abuse in general. If the parent is involved in such a behavioral change then he/she is likely to abuse the children. Most common instances of child abuses are physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. Therefore children in a normal family with both of the biological parent living together are less likely to be abused as compared to their counterparts. Secondly, premarital fertility also contributes to the issue of child abuse in that the moment people bears children out of wedlock they are exposed to poverty which has the same effects as stated earlier.

Furthermore, single parents tend to concentrate more on the economic venture and forget on the qualitative care of the children such as moral support, spending quality time with the children to guide them on morals etc. The result of economic struggle by the single parent leads to neglect of the children who also suffer psychology. To vent their socio-economic disappointments, such parents may abuse these children physically leaving them with scars that may take a very long time to heal or an emotional scar that may lead these children to also abuse their children later ion life.

Therefore the changes in the family structure have diverse unfavorable effects which often develop into a vicious cycle which become very difficult to break (Wolfinger, 2005), (Amato, 2005). Economic changes alone also have the same potential of causing child abuse just as good as divorce has. Children from poor families have been witnessed to be victims of abuse more than those from average or rich families. The fact that a family is poor makes the parent(s) to abuse substances, engage in prostitution, or any other undesirable behavior patterns whose impacts are abusive to the children psychologically, physically or even emotionally.

For instance if a poor father comes home drunk and beats the children mercilessly, this will cause physical abuse which will eventually create an even greater psychological partner. On matters to do with child abuse, the governments especially the US government ha invested a lot in saving these children from such abuse. Besides the government, NGOs and the entire civil society have also come in strongly not only to directly help the children but also to force the government to create policies that will afford sustainable support for these children.

The children social welfare programs are very popular thus catering for the children especially those in single parent children. The response from the society has been overwhelming turning in the children who are abused for the government to take them to its centers (where they are provided for, being taken to schools, buying them food, giving them medical cover etc) a venture that is proving too expensive for the US government (Corsaro, 2005). The government has often been criticized about its welfare policies others citing that the government prepared its own trap.

As the program continues to draw heavily from the public purse and as the economy adopts a non stable orientation, the government wonders if it can bail itself out. Government is doing all it can to get itself out of the trap and no wonder some debates such as gay marriages and bid to legalize abortion have surfaced more prominently in the public domain. Unstable families may also refer to the single families. Generally, an unstable family is any family that has undergone or on the verge of undergoing a structural change.

In the US for instance more than one third of the families have undergone a structural change. These unstable family definitions have a racial component. The white consider a less stable family to one that includes a grandmother to replace the father figure after divorce, separation or if it is a case of premarital fertility whereas the Latinos and the African-American view of a less stable, or unstable for that matter, is a family that includes a grandmother or any other father figure as a substitute for the biological father after separation, divorce etc.

A study carried out by Kang & Foster of U. S. National Institutes of Health showed that the loss of stability (divorce, separation, premarital fertility, etc) causes a structural change in the family which has an emotional impact on the children found in that family. For instance, for an African-American child in a less stable family, it is better to live with grandmother or any other father figure than the biological figure.

In other words, a move in with grandmother or any other father figure after parents separate positively affects the emotional outcome in the children. The Latinos on the other hand, in the study, demonstrated the fact that children moving in with their grandmother or any other father figure in place of the biological father carries a negative influence on the emotional outcome (it is associated with negative emotional outcome.

However for the whites, a move in of a father figure was strongly associated with positive emotional outcome. The study therefore implied that any policy on family structure will definitely have differential effects on the racial platform thus calling on policy formulators and implementers to thread with care when it comes to not only the formulation but also the practice of such family structure policies (Bogenschneider, 2006).

Therefore, in conclusion, the changes in family structures definitely have unfavorable effects on the members of the family especially the children, the family as a whole and even the development of such a family in that such a change impedes on any positive family development. The structural family changes on the other have an impact on the services rendered to the children whose families fall victims of such changes thus the changes extending their impacts up to policies to do with family structural changes.

References Corsaro W, (2005): The Sociology of Childhood, Pine Forge Press, pp249-252 Wolfinger N, (2005): Understanding the Divorce Cycle: The Children of Divorce in Their Own Marriages, Cambridge University Press, pp149 Bogenschneider K, (2006): Family Policy Matters: How Policymaking Affects Families and what Professionals Can Do, Routledge Publishers, pp105 Amato G, (2005): Test of Will, Test of Efficacy: Center for Strategic & Intl Studies, 2005

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