What's Your Family 'Type'?

Researchers have found yet another way to categorize parents and their children. In addition to your parenting type, you now should consider your family type.  Because how you interact as a family unit, they say, impacts far more than just what goes on inside your house.  According to new research, your family type can influence how your kids do in school.

For a period of three years, researchers at the University of Rochester and the University of Notre Dame made bi-annual visits to 234 families with 6-year-olds.  They looked at the parents’ marriage, the parent-child relationship between mom and dad separately and then the entire family together.  What they discovered was three distinct psychological family types:

  • Cohesive: Characterized by emotional warmth
  • Disengaged: Characterized by cold, controlling and withdrawn relationships
  • Enmeshed: Characterized by moderate warmth and emotional involvement, but also hostility and meddling

Obviously, cohesive is the preferred type.  While a child’s own resilience and personality type comes into play, kids from cohesive families generally exhibit fewer overall behavioral problems in school.

No surprise, children from families that were considered disengaged suffered the most in school.  They were more aggressive, exhibited more disruptive behavior and had more difficulty focusing and cooperating. These problems persisted and worsened as the kids progressed through school.

Children from an enmeshed family type were initially as well-behaved and suffered no more depression than children from cohesive families.  But as they got older, they began to suffer from high levels of anxiety and feelings of loneliness and alienation.

Well, okay then. As much as I appreciate the desire to understand family dysfunction and determine how it impacts a child’s life, I really can’t see how narrowing down family types into three specific categories is even possible.   What’s more, I think that most families are, at one time or another, a little bit of all three.  And then some.  Just this morning, my own family was disengaged.  By noon, we settled into cohesive.  And we are bound to find ourselves enmeshed around bedtime.

Image: Lili Vieira de Carvalho/Flickr

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