Read this article to learn about the Influence of Family on a Child.
Family is the basic unit of a society. A society happens to consist of an umpteen number of families. It is the most important unit of a society. The child is born in a family. He is born to his mother, and, is the result of the combined genes of both of his mother and father. And, as genes are the carrier of heredity, he is born with some of the characteristics inherited to him prenatally.
If any or both of his parents possess positive social qualities, it would be easier for the social agencies concerned to develop the same as the child grows up. If the child has congenital negative traits, the agencies will have to struggle hard for liquidating the same, with no prospects for a cent per cent success.
Thus, heredity also plays an important role in the development of social traits. The process of socialisation of the child begins with the imparting of toilet-training.
A child would, gradually, adopt the adult behaviour because of the following four reasons:
The child desires to be like his parents.
Here, the difficulty is that the parent does his/her eliminations in a closed toilet.
The child is rewarded when he makes a correct response.
4. Motive of anxiety:
This fourth mechanism is, also, very effective— the child learns to prohibit immediate reaction because of anxiety over potential punishment. The most important functionary in the family, so far the development of social qualities in the child is concerned, is the mother. Her intense parental affection goes a long way in moulding the social character of the child.
Affection or love has marvelous power to affect its object. This emotion releases so much energy, develops so much patience that the person loving the other, may sacrifice anything for the object of her or his love; can undergo all sorts of sufferings for the person that she or he loves.
First, we are to discuss the impact of the mother in the development of social traits in the growing child. … No single person influences so much the development of social qualities in the child, as his mother does. An intense relationship of affection between the mother and her child may be the foundation stone for the inculcation of a lot many social qualities in the child.
Goldfarb, W, on the basis of case studies of orphan children, reared in an institution during the first three years of their infancy, found them to be inferior in all respects—motor, intellectual, language and social development, to those who were brought up by their mothers.
The mother can sacrifice all her comforts and everything for the welfare of her child. Her sleep, rest, food, everything may be neglected if it is so needed to look after and to bring up her child. She does not care for her own health, and always tries to safeguard the well-being of her child. The qualities of love and sacrifice, thus, affecting the emotions of the child, make the child reciprocate his mother with like behaviour.
Soon, the feelings of love and sacrifice may be witnessed motivating the mutual behaviour of the members of the entire family. There would be more and more people whom the child, when grown up, will be loving and making sacrifice for, if proper social education is imparted to him.
Love and sacrifice are such moral characteristics which sweeten the overall social milieu as these are the virtues which only can make the stronger support the weaker. In a society, there are always people of different physical, mental and financial capacities; some are very strong, some very weak, and others in between the two.
It is love and sacrifice, which can motivate the stronger people to assist their weaker brethren.
In every society of the world, there have been examples of love and sacrifice. Prompted by the strong emotions of love and sacrifice, people have shown little attachment to their own physical self, their money, comforts etc. This is the reason that society has been attaching so much importance to these social virtues.
On the contrary, if the child could not get the maternal affection in the beginning, it would affect his behaviour towards others in years to come. The situation may sow seeds of mistrust and hostility, which would spoil his future social relations, too.
Rheingold’s experiment on 16 babies, not older than 1 year, led him to the findings: “The experimental babies showed more social responsiveness to the experimenters, that is, to the mother, the examiner and the stranger than did the controls; i.e., smile in response to smile, or showed more social reaction to the adults than the normally treated children-the effect being more marked in response to the experimenter. Social acts learned in response to a nurturant and socially stimulating caretaker, will be generalized to other people.”
It is through practical examples that other members of the family can, also, help in inculcating the virtues of love and sacrifice. Father’s role in this context, may be second only to the mother. Siblings also have or can have their wholesome effect, in this respect.
Elder sisters and brothers also assist their mother in upbringing the younger child (Fig. 12.3). They can do this only, when they, too, feel affection for their younger brother, and, are prepared to make sacrifice for his good.
In an environment, where this kind of, action- reaction, charged with a feeling of affection, does not exist, the child can never grow into a social being in the real sense of the word.
The trio authors of the book ‘Child Development and Personality’, write that if during the first year a child experiences external neglect, “there may be irreparable damage to the child’s capacity for development” and “interpersonal relations in the future. His reactions to his mother form the nucleus of his later behaviour toward others.”
Judith Rich Harris, a recipient of “George A Miller Award”, in her recent book, published in 1998, has made a heretic blast that Mom and Dad are not paramount, and that, the other kids on the playground, matter more. Over-protection and over-nurturing are equally harmful to the process of making a child social and developing in him desirable social qualities.
By nature, a child happens to be jealous of others. He cannot tolerate others to possess, what is denied to him, and, what he himself would like to possess. A child who is not yet two years old, may be seen snatching his toy whenever someone else takes it.
He may be seen protesting through crying or throwing out his legs and hands, when some other baby is picked up by his mother in her arms, he even cannot tolerate his mother to share her affection with someone else.
In most cases, jealousy is “a normal response to actual, supposed or threatened loss of affection.” Such sort of jealousy is a strong antisocial feeling, which would develop into rivalry if no proper channelization is given to it.
Jealousy is a divisive emotion, which is strong enough to split a family, if it continues in the growing child. Sewall, M in the book Two Studies of Sibling Rivalry: Some Causes of Jealousy in Young Children has also suggested how to avoid jealousy—good interpersonal relations in the home, consistency in discipline, reassuring affection and continued gratification of the older child’s basic needs—are the means.
Its antidote is the feeling of co-operation. From the very beginning, a child should be persuaded to co-operate in his sibling’s activities. A child should never [even when he is a school-going child] be taught only to excel others, to go ahead of others at any cost; but should be taught to co-operate in the efforts of others, and thus, assist them in improving themselves.
Co-operating with others is an important social quality, which has enabled society to achieve so much, in the form of civilisation and culture. A good family provides a very congenial environment for the child to imbibe the spirit of co-operation.
In the family, he sees each member of it co-operating with the other in a work. A family has to perform a lot many duties; it becomes possible, only with the co-operation of each member. Parents and elders should see to it that this important social virtue extends its field of operation beyond the family.
That is, into the wider society wherein the child has to move and work later on. The energy, which the emotion of jealousy would be otherwise generating, will, then be utilised in the co-operative efforts being done in the interest of many.
Courtesy is a must for the smooth functioning of society. It is essential for strengthening the social bonds, which keep the society united. Why is so much emphasis being given on the teaching of manners? It is because, good manners relate one to the other; one may be moved to co-operate with the other, as an impact of good manners only.
Moreover, good manners are the yardstick to assess how much civilized a society is. Again, the first school for the teaching of good manners is the family. And, courtesy is the axis, around which our manners must revolve.
Courtesy is an acquired quality like some other social qualities. The child acquires it, in imitation to others, to his seniors especially. And, when he finds courtesy to be helpful in getting a thing done, he adopts courteous manners.
A growing child’s experiences teach him that, what cannot be achieved through coercion, can be achieved through requests made politely. Such experiences of the child reinforce his courteous manners.
The mother, as the first teacher of the baby, and other elderly members of the family, should teach the child consciously, and painstakingly, good and courteous manners, mostly through their own practice, and, sometimes may be through preaching. Good manners have become a part of the school curriculum.
Obedience to elders, to seniors, is an important social virtue, which the family has a duty to inculcate in a child. If willing and sincere obedience is not there, family will fail to perform its functions. Obedience is the response for co-operation. If the seniors cannot command obedience of their juniors, of their younger’s, there will be arbitrariness, pursuit of individual interests only, and breaking down of the social fabric.
A chaotic situation would be the result. The psychological analysis would be to the effect that, initially one will obey others only, when, one finds doing the same to be in his personal interest. Obedience elicits immediate commendation. This is a reward for the child which motivates his future behaviour also.
So long as one is a child, most of the instructions and orders that the elders of the family happen to give, are usually, in the interest of the child himself. When the child would have realised this fact, the obedience would become more willing and automatic.
This quality of obedience needs to be observed in reference to a wider circle of relationships. It is this quality, which can be a guarantee of discipline, in different professional and social establishments. Obedience is quite essential for a smooth working of any organisation.
For the development and sustenance of a proper work culture, the habit to obey the orders of the authority will have to be inculcated. No organisation can develop and work if there are no sincere and firm followers to its leaders. We all are well-aware of the importance of discipline in defence, which can only be possible if obedience to the commanding authorities is unquestioning.
Sympathy/Empathy is the feeling which enables us to feel for those who are in trouble or are the sufferers. To feel concern for those who are the sufferers, to feel grief for those who are aggrieved; or to be sensitive to the sufferings of others, is sympathy.
This sympathy binds persons together so that they can work for the relief of one another from sufferings. Lack of sympathy means lack of sensitivity for the troubles and the sufferings of others. If in a society, majority is insensitive to its fellow members, it would not be a closely bound society.
It would be, rather, a loosely-knit society where people do not feel sorrow or happiness if the predicament of others, so demands. Sympathy is a fellow-feeling that is to have similar feelings as the others do. It is such a feeling which strengthens society, through the commonness of feelings of the people of the society. And, when it is so, they can work together for a common cause.
Empathy means to put oneself mentally into the predicament of the others so as to be able to comprehend the feelings and conditions of others.
Through teaching and persuasion, the mother and other elders of the child can develop this habit in the child that he thinks about the condition of others; always tries to know what the other or others would be feeling in relation to or in reaction to a certain action, what others would be feeling in a particular situation.
A person who behaves always with such a thinking, is least likely to do anything unjust or wrong to others.
The higher the number of people with a sense of sympathy for others, or who can comprehend the predicament of others through empathy, the better the society would be, where one would be co-operating with others, would be working for the good of others so as to relieve them of the sufferings that they are undergoing. It would be a well-knit and strong society, too.
Members of the family, and especially the mother, can realise the needs of the child because of their empathy with the child.
Through empathy, a mother can know when her baby would be feeling hungry, would be thirsty, would be feeling sleepy. Empathy, or mental identification with others, enables one to realise the needs and troubles of others, and, out of sympathy one would do what one can, to relieve the other of his trouble.
The child imbibes the quality of sympathy and empathy as an impact of his mother’s behaviour, and of those of the other members of the family. When the child is a little grown up, the mother can teach him through words of mouth that he should realise the difficulties and troubles of others, and behave in such a way that may help the others in being relieved of their difficulty or trouble.
It may also be asked of the child what he would feel if his thing is snatched off, or if he is hit as he has done to the other, and so on, to make him realise the sufferings of others. Thus, lessons in sympathy and empathy may be taught. Short tales, illustrating kindness to others out of sympathy, should be told to the child to make him sympathetic to the sufferings of others.
Spontaneity or self-learning is also an important social quality. This quality gets a more congenial situation for the development when a child is reared in a permissive family.
During the period from 1 to 3 years, the child rapidly improves his motor activities, and realizes, gradually, that he himself can manipulate things of his environment—can change the place of an object, can throw it down or elsewhere, can spill water, can scuffle with the papers of his daddy, can make marks on the floor/wall with a pencil etc.
These exploratory motor activities engender self-confidence in the child. An understanding parent would handle the situation in such a way, that the child continues with his explorations—a way to enhance knowledge and spontaneity. Contrary to this, if the child’s activities are harshly and insensitively inhibited, it would be very difficult to develop the quality of initiation, in his future life.