The Psychology of Everyday Life:Love, Marriage, and the Baby Carriage


What are the benefits and drawbacks of extended family involvement?

Most families with small children have extensive contact with grandparents, uncles, and/or aunts. Such involvement of the extended family offers considerable benefits, but also potential drawbacks. One important benefit involves a sense of community, of belonging to a larger social group. Secondly, extended family members can provide very valuable assistance, offering practical, financial, and emotional support. For example, many grandmothers babysit while mothers are at work. Thirdly, no parent is free of personality flaws. Extended family members can provide alternative role models and relationships for children. For example, a mother may be loving but also very anxious. A more carefree uncle can provide a different example of how to manage stress. Potential drawbacks include conflicts between parents and extended family members. This is where appropriate boundaries come into play. For optimal adjustment, family members must work out ways to manage conflict and clarify the boundaries around issues such as decision making, privacy, and amount of time spent together.


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