Enmeshed families may be emotionally involved and display some warmth, but experience ‘high levels of hostility, destructive meddling, and a limited sense of the family as a team’. Disengaged families are associated with cold, controlling, and withdrawn relationships. Researchers assessed families using parent and teacher reports and through direct observation. Participants came to the lab annually for three years, making two visits one week apart. Both parents and their child played Jenga, an interactive game, for 15 minutes. On alternate weeks each parent interacted alone with the child for ten minutes divided between play and clean up.
Parents were also videotaped discussing two topics intended to elicit disagreement. The study evaluated how parents related to one another, noting characteristics such as aggression, withdrawal, avoidance and ability to work as a team in the presence of the child. Researchers assessed the emotional availability of parents, whether they provided praise and approval or ignored the child during shared activities. They also noted how the children related to their parents, noting whether attempts to engage them were ‘brief and half-hearted or sustained and enthusiastic’.
The study found that children from disengaged homes started school with higher levels of aggressive and disruptive behavior and more difficulty focusing and cooperating with classroom rules. These behaviors tended to increase with time. Children from enmeshed homes began with no more disciplinary problems or depression and withdrawal than those from cohesive families. However, as children from families with either type of destructive relationship pattern continued in school they began to suffer from higher levels of anxiety and feelings of loneliness combined with alienation from peers and teachers.
Negative Effects of Divorce on Children Divorce has a strong negative effect on children. The children are brought into the family and then ripped out of what they know is right or of their norms. James M. Henslin defines the family as being two or more people who consider themselves related by blood, marriage, or adoption (445). When married you are instantaneously put into a family. When two ...
While the study identified a clear connection between family characteristics and behavior at school the researchers caution against concluding that dysfunctional relationships are responsible for the majority of difficulties encountered. They point to other relevant risk factors, including high-crime or deprived neighborhoods, peer pressure and genetic traits. Lead researcher Melissa Sturge-Apple, an assistant professor of psychology concluded: Families can be a support and resource for children as they enter school, or they can be a source of stress, distraction, and maladaptive behavior. This study shows that cold and controlling family environments are linked to a growing cascade of difficulties for children in their first three years of school, from aggressive and disruptive behavior to depression and alienation. The study also finds that children from families marked by high levels of conflict and intrusive parenting increasingly struggle with anxiety and social withdrawal as they navigate their early school years. “