Family relationships and parenting

Many other aspects of family life and relationships, and of parenting styles and behaviours, have been examined for their impact on children's development. Research on families emphasizes the complexity of family relationships; each dyadic relationship is influenced by other relationships in the family, and normative transitions in family life—the birth of a sibling, or mother starting work—reverberate to affect all family members. (8) Relationships with parents and siblings change as children develop, and both these, and specific aspects of parenting, may impact on risks for disorder.

The implications of the most severely compromised parenting, involving abuse or neglect, are examined in Chapter.9.3.1, and family-based risks for individual childhood disorders are discussed in detail in the chapters dealing with each specific condition. In general, these reflect four broad themes:

1. discordant dysfunctional relationships between parents, or in the family system as a whole;

2. hostile or rejecting parent-child relationships, or those markedly lacking in warmth;

3. harsh or inconsistent discipline;

4. ineffective monitoring and supervision.

Within this broad pattern, differential treatment of siblings is known to increase conflict between children, and may have important implications for psychopathology. In addition, outcomes are markedly poorer when children face multiple family-related risks.

Family life can also provide important sources of protective influences for children facing life events and other stressors. Cohesion and warmth within the family, the presence of one good relationship with a parent, close sibling relationships, and the nature of parental monitoring and supervision have all been found to show protective influences of this kind.

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