Monday, June 13, 2016

JOURNAL | Early Parent-Child Bonds Key To Good Adult Relationships

Early Parent-Child Bonds, Key To Good Adult Relationships
Key Terms: parent-child bond, behavior, child rearing, divorce, domestic discord, online therapy

This research reveals that early parent-child bond has significant albeit non-conclusive impact to good adult relationships. Specifically, attachment between the mother and child during the early stages of life can influence a child's behavior indicating that infants who are securely attached to their mothers or caregivers tend to learn to trust and count on to the adult, and later becomes independent when they reach toddler ages. However, environmental factors such as child-rearing can also influence the mental and emotional development of a child which he brings into adulthood. A child that has not been reared by his biological parents is prone to the stimulus of the people surrounding him, which may be negative or positive. In terms of parental conflict or breakup e.g. divorce, it was found in recent studies that it is not the parents' separation or exposure to domestic discord that determines the children's success in achieving their own satisfying adult relationships but the parent-child bond. And in extreme cases, where the child stumbles upon a failed relationship in adulthood, studies have found that online therapy can also become a viable alternative to remedy the source of struggle.

Background of the Study

As we all know, the family is the basic unit of our society which contributes to the development of our country. Furthermore, it is within the family that the children learn how to be good citizens. The development of each individual lies in the hands of the parents, therefore it is the parents' responsibility to nurture their children's potential and abilities.

There exists a clear guideline in the Philippines on the roles of parents to their children. According to Article 220 of the Family Code, parents have rights and duties with reference to their children. Among these are 1) Obligation to keep them in their company, to support, educate, and instruct them by right precepts and good examples and to provide for their upbringing in keeping with their means; 2) To give them love and affection, advice, and counsel, companionship, and understanding; 3) To provide them with moral and spiritual guidance, teach them honesty, integrity, self-discipline, self-reliance, industry and thrift, stimulate their interest in civic affairs, inspire them compliance with their duties of citizenship; 4) To enhance, protect, preserve and maintain their physical and mental health at all times; 5) To furnish them with good and wholesome education, supervise their activity, recreation and association with others, protect them from bad company, and prevent them from acquiring habits detrimental to their health, studies and morals; 6) To represent them in all matters affecting their interests; 7) To demand from them respect and obedience; 8) To impose discipline on them as may be required under circumstances; and 9) To perform such other duties as are imposed by law and guardians.[1]

Furthermore Article 221 states that parents and other persons exercising parents' authority shall be civilly liable for the injuries and damages caused by the acts or omissions of their unemancipated chidren living in their company and under their parental authority, subject to the appropriate defenses provided by law.[2]

Such responsibilities, therefore will help to determine how children will grow and provides for the  responsibilities to themselves, parents, and country. The imposition of authority upon children would determine how they will handle such tasks, particularly adult relationships.

The success of a child in the future depends on how he does today. The study of early parent-child bonds as key to good adult relationships aims to establish common facts why children who have greater chance of having future relationships work; depends with their relationship with their parents during childhood. A pressing question, can children blame an early relationship with a parent for frayed romantic and spousal relationships in life.[3] In a study that tracked 100 children since 1970s, it was found that these children suffered the effects of their parents' divorce well into adulthood.

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However other recent studies indicate that it is not the parents' marriage or divorce that affects children's success in achieving their own satisfying adult relationships. The real key is the parent-child bond. Children with warm and supportive parents were more likely to have satisfying relationships later in life. Even in an effective parents' divorce or was never married, the kids should do as well as kids from two-parents families in terms of development of romantic relationships as young adults.[4]

It is argued that the factor affecting kids' later relationship is the most disrupted parent-child relationship. In a study done at the Pennsylvanian State University, it was found that it is the direct exposure of the parents' discord that causes the problem.[5] The study of nearly 700 children found that children of openly hostile marriage fared better in later intimate relationships if their parents divorced than did children whose parents rarely fought before their divorcing. The results lead the researchers to conclude that depending on the quality of parental relationships, some children might be better off if their parents' divorce, while other  marriage should be saved if possible.

One has a better chance of being a good parent if he is given beforehand an opportunity to learn about the challenges, responsibilities and problems of parenthood.

Importance of Bonding Between Mother and Child

Psychologists have long considered attachment as a two way process of becoming emotionally linked to members of the family in order of diminishing intensity. This phenomenon has been observed to begin as the infant's first three days of life in relation to the mother. Some theorists depending on their orientation have looked as this condition as an adaptive biological process for the protection and nurturance. As early as 1972, researchers have investigated the importance of contact between mother and child, particularly in the first few months of life. It was found that mothers who cuddled, soothed and had more eye contact with their babies during feeding affected the way the mothers reacted to their babies even two years after the birth. Likewise it also affected the way in which the infants and later the toddlers responded to their mothers.[6]

Attachment Reactions

The quality of attachment plays a crucial role in a child's development. So far, researchers have been able to identify three reactions. The first kind of reaction- anxious/resistant attachments, accounts for about 10-15% of children. Although anxious/resistant attachment is not related to rejection but rather inconsistency of the mother during the infant's first year of life. Anxious/resistant infants act the way they do simply because they do not know what to expect.

The second kind of reaction- anxious/avoidant attachments, accounts for about 20% of the children. This is seen in infants who do not approach their mothers/caregivers or who actively avoids them. It appears that mothers of anxious/avoidant infants respond according to their moods. They (mothers) seem to be less sensitive to their infant's requests and did not like physical contact with their babies.

The third kind of attachment- secure attachments, accounts for about 65% to 70% of children. Babies exhibiting this response tend to give their returning mothers/caregivers a happy greeting, more often approach them or stay near for a time. A study of mothers of infants with secure attachment revealed that they are more accessible, sensitive and responsive to their babies' cries and signals. The babies were noted to require less proximity and physical contact as they grew older. This suggests that infants who are securely attached learned to trust and count on the adult who has responded correctly and quickly in the past to their needs and desires.

Interestingly until these findings were uncovered, it was commonly believed that infants who were cuddled and hugged whenever they cried or showed fear would become dependent. As it turned out, the opposite happens and secure babies are more likely to develop into independent toddlers and children.

Distributing Parental Responsibilities

In the Philippines, many Filipinas are known to bear the burden of the double shift. They toil by day to make a living or augment the family income. Then they work by night as housewives tending to the needs of their husbands and children. Working mothers end up exhausted and may worry that their jobs compromise the quality of their child care. On the other hand, stay at home housewives may feel unfulfilled with their child care  daily routine.

It has become the tradition of affluent families to hire maids or delegate particular children to relatives who happily assume the role of surrogate parents. The child in his absorbent frame of mind imbibes all of these (the delegation system) into his system. He gets to know where to seek comfort and support when busy parents are not around. A glaring truth presents itself that in the absence of the real parents, children absorb everything within reach. Habits of neatness, diligence, obedience, courtesy and kindness are learned at an early age. So do tendencies for carelessness, aggression, cruelty and dishonesty.[7]

When Napoleon Bonaparte was asked how to prevent deliquency among youth, he replied, "You begin twenty-one years before he is born by training the grandmother to teach her daughter how to be a real mother…" In much the same way, a child begins to acquire moral and spiritual values which give definition and meaning to life. Apart from that, there is no moral framework; no ultimate accountability. In the absence of a bond or attachment with parents, the child is deprived of the so-called framework in which he would later use to build future relationships. And that is why an early parent-child bond could might just be the key to a successful adult relationships.

[1] Tagle, R. 1991. Towards a Responsible Parenthood and Family Life. Metro Manila: Tagle Publishing Inc., pp. 137-138.
[2] Tagle, R. 1991. Towards a Responsible Parenthood and Family Life. Metro Manila: Tagle Publishing Inc., pp. 137-138.
[3] Campbell, S. 2001. "Parental Breakups May Not Always Be Bad For Kids." Psychology Today, p.16.
[4] Conger, R. Iowa State University.
[5] Amato, P. Pennsylvanian State University.
[6] John Kennel & Marshall Claus, in "Why Bonding Is Important Between Mother and Child". 2000. Philippine Daily Inquirer.
[7] "Public Opinions on the Tension of the Working Mother." 1999. Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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