Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

By James P. McHale; Wendy S. Grolnick | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Retrospect and Prospect in the
Psychological Study of
Families as Systems
Kurt Kreppner
Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany

In nonacademic S, the notion that families constitute a pr' ecological niche affo surival of offspring and socialization of new n tions into a common culture is not a controversial one. Within developmental psychology, however, this notion has long been neglected and at times even rejected. Indeed, until human ethologists provided new insights into the significance of primary caretakers and the essential role of caretaker-child relationships during the 1960s and 1970s, the family as a relevant developmental context was seldom studied. When family environments were considered by researchers, they were evaluated along such dimensions as number of toys available in the home, housing conditions, quality of neighborhood, and conditions of day care centers.

Though progress was slow, researchers gradually moved beyond studies of the mother-child relationship to consider the roles that fathers play in the child's relational network (Silverstein, chap. 2, this volume). Today, the child-father relationship is viewed by most family psychologists as an important aspect of the natural environment in which children develop. As several contributors to this volume note, however, studying mothering and fathering within families still does not do justice to the richness of the entire relationship network that children encounter as they grow up in a family. To capture the relational experience children encounter in their natural habitats, both the structural aspects of the family's relational network and the emotional climate within which family members exchange infor

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