There have been several books on the issue of whether a child's birth position in the family pre-shapes their values, political views and attitudes in general. We take a look at these ideas adding to the mix the factors of family structure. Lets see what a discussion of this set of factors brings.
Updated: 10/19/13 Family Experiences and Impacts upon Brain Structure
Updated: 10/4/10 The Dominant Father-Passive Mother Family Structure
Updated: 10/7/10 Dominant? Who's Dominant? Both of Us Can't Be Dominant? Right?
Updated: 10/8/10 Why Do We Have A Dominate-Father Family Structure in the First Place?
Updated: 10/9/10 So What About the Benevolent Father Family Structure?
Updated: 5-20-11 So What About the Oldest Daughter in the Dominant Father Family Structure?
Updated: 6-2-11 Family Structures and Nation-States
Updated 6-3-11 Family Structures Become Political Structures
Updated: 11/25/12 PSTD, and Family Position: Are they related?
Updated: 6-18-11 What about those other family structures?
Updated: 7-18-11 Multicultural Families
Oct 1, 2010
The obvious first point here is that everyone is born and most of us are born into a family, or perhaps orphaned at an early age, and if we survive, grow up with or without siblings. Also, most of us grow up inside a family structure of some kind, or at the least with significant adults providing supports, love, direction and succor.
The next logical question is how do the circumstances of our rearing affect us, our values, our beliefs, and our political and social views?
I propose to discusss the given structure of a family and relate that structure , to the birth position and sex of the child in that family structure and to that child's social, political and world views.
A tall order indeed; one which will likely fail- but well worth the journey, in my view.
But first we need to identify what family structures are posited.
We could identify many but the ones I propose are:
1-The single mother family
2-The single father family
3-The dominant father-passive mother family structure
4-The dominant mother-passive father family structure
5- The father-mother competitive family structure
6- The absent mother and the absent father family structure (not the orphaned structure)
7- Divorced and Seperated Families
8- Blended Families
9- Interracial Families
10- Intercultural Familes
11- Other structures. (Oldest male child, oldest female child, youngest male or female) Gay families, Lesbian families
12 Minority familes
13-Culturally Dominant families (or white families in the US.
(These typologies alone can provoke responses, indeed, are instructive in themselves.
I will direct my discussion to the impact of these structures on:
1-The oldest male and female child
2-The middle male and female child
3- The younger male and female children
A second set of variables will be what is the impact of these structures apt to be on the child's notion of:
4-The family itself
5-Society and Politics
7- World views
A through look into all of this cannot be done in a single blog (a book is coming) I am hoping discussion and feedback can sharpen that proposed book.
So lets start out here and see what we come up with in the coming days.
I believe a good look at important issues to start one's day is as important as a good breakfast. Let's have toast.
Oct 4, 2010
First we want to define a few terms. I will start with the dominant-father passive mother family structure.
The father is, in this structure, the dominant member of the family. He is expected to provide for the family, sits at the head of the table, represents the family and, needless to say makes most of the important decisions in the family. While mother may or may not discipline the kids, the dominant father is often presented to the kids as the ultimate dispenser of rewards and punishment.
This is a common family structure one which is probably most common in the world, reinforced by the Christian bible, by Islam, and by most other religions. God in most religions, if there is a God, is usually male, stern and requires obedience.
Passive here does not necessarily mean the wife or partner is totally passive, although some are. But that passivity can exhibit a hidden strong reaction to the dominance of the father figure. Mothers can react to this dominance by fighting against it all the while playing the passive role. Mother might subvert the "authority" of the father by developing secret pacts and relationships with the kids. She might say "be good or I will tell your dad but if you do what I want you to do I will not tell him."
In a word Mother steals the kids, keeps secrets with them and dominates their emotional life while dominant dad works and, over time, slowly retreats from the family, her and the kids because he is gradually entrapped in his role and is now dominant, but becomes the emotionally isolated, closed, father who has no real relationship with the children except as the bringer of fear and critiques. Often he looks at the kids as disloyal and unappreciative of his efforts and the wife becomes the one who "spoils" them. She does and there is a reason for it. Alliances matter in this family.
These are common observations, often commented upon by others.
Some times DF will try to form his own emotional alliance with a girl child in the family to thwart the allliances the mother is constructing. The young girl becomes "daddy's girl" due to the attentions of the father and may come to hold mother in open contempt because the young girl is given the impression that she is more important to dad than mom and simultaneously the young girl holds mom in contempt for the reason that mom appears passive and weak to the young girl, who makes a secret vow "I will never become like mom." In extreme cases the young girl sees her self as the "wife" figure or the most important person in the family aside from dad himself. She becomes aggressive and self-regarding and all this might also bring her in conflict with her siblings who notice all this.
If the alliance is with oldest male child then similar patterns emerge. However, there are some differences with the oldest male child which we will explore later.
So essentially what you have here is a family often at war and often split internally. If dad's dominance is never challenged you have the peace of a family where dominance is never challenged and all seems well, quiet and peaceful, but, undernearth, there is seething anger among everyone, which is not allowed to come out in the open.
Now what we want to know is what kinds of attitudes emerge from these two variations on the dominant family in the male and female child along the variables I have identified above?
Who says families are dull? Lots of drama going on there--but keep in mind so goes the family so goes the nation and vis-versa. Family dynamics determine how a culture or a country interacts with its citzens and with other cultures and countries in the world.
Let's have a closer look in the coming days.
Oct, 7, 2010
The oldest child (male or female) is usually given more attention than siblings (except maybe the youngest sibling) and has a dilemma. Let's take the case of the oldest male child. This child will seek to become like dad. But "dad-ness" involves dominance as a birthright and the females are expected to defer to that dominance.
But the male child is also dominated by the father figure setting into motion an inner conflict. The male might challenge the father, and at the same time view the females in the family as less than equal to himself, the oldest male child.
Smarting from fatherly dominance the oldest male child might seek an alliance with the mother in which case conflict with dad emerges and grows and can become intense, with the father making it known that an alliance with the females is not approved by him. In order to avoid that conflict the son may form a secret alliance with mom all the while maintaining at least the appearance of a close alliance with dad as well. This is a tricky trick to maintain and mistrust often occurs and suspicions of hidden alliances. Or the oldest son could retreat from all of this and emotionally abandon the family with friends or retreat inwardly to other things.
If the son and the father do form a close relationship then the two will have bonds around the interests of the father, and "male things." This alliance is seen by siblings and this becomes yet another aspect of the family structure where unstated conflicts are present.
Now with this structure in place the father-dominated male child learns some lessons:
1-Freedom is the unchallenged right of males to act. The females of the household are not actors, they cannot initiate action without the father's approval. This notion of freedom dovetails with American culture where the United States behaves in the world with a notion that we have an untrammeled right to act, without restraint, upon all other countries in the world. Freedom becomes power over others and it is learned in the home.
2-A variant of this is, of course, male-bonding social organizations, fraternities, and the like. But this also engenders male-female splits in society creating this tribal split along gender lines and the two sexes, over-time know less and less about each other, especially in our times when women are in the work force and many come to see themselves chaffing under this male dominant family structure. This also creates yet another layer of tension in the family. Bad economic times can cause this structure to facture and a high divorce rate occurs in this structure.
Of course, bad economic times might cause this family as well to become closer in order to survive. In the short run this can be good. But come the "good times" again the old tensions will re-emerge unless the couple learns the ways of peace during this "bad time" cooperation period.
Now another point to be made here is that this structure can and does change and is is not be judged as all bad. There are many positives also at play. Some personalities are suited to this structure and things can go quite well. But later in life tensions may erupt even after a seemingly traquil childhood when the male child seeks to act upon his childhood influences as he seeks to find a female willing to play mom's passive role, this can prove to be difficult.
But there are other factors at play which generate this family structure which are in fact, seen by some, as positive. "Maleness" and the need for a warrior mentality and military service can be functional in a young man who can, thereby, prove to his dad that he is worthy, and a man. The military gives the male child an affinity for male sacrifice for the family and also for his country. The latter often becomes, for the father and the male child, a proving ground and a bonding experience for each. Self-sacrifice for the country, military strife and American attitudes of domnation toward other cultures are a comfortable fit for young men from this family structure. And we do need these traits, at least many think so, in order for the population to rise to the needs of war. This is not new.
But underneath, remains the idea that the male child wants to be dominant like dad and may in his youth be a bully, a supermale, and might rise up and confront the father early or his late teens-often in the context of protecting mom and the kids. This will not be tolerated and the son will then find military service very attractive as a way of exiting from this kind of strife with the father.
Oct 8. 2010
Now we ask, once we see the negatives of the structure, lets have another closer look at the positives briefly mentioned above.
The dominant father feels that he is making huge sacrifices for the family, denies himself even the softer aspects of marriage and its emotional comforts, and that translates very easily into sacrifice for ones country, state, town or villiage or even for God.
There are tremendous reinforcements for this attitude by nations who have a need for young men and women willing to make life and death sacrifices for the country. And, as we have seen, even the conflicts inside this family structure, seen from the point of view of a warring country, are not negative but positive when seen from the point of view of a country which needs to go to war occasionally, or has continual wars of expansion.
Young men are often eager to go and want to exit this family structure, often fueled by the idea that the military life is a rite of male passage to manhood, encouraged by both father and society, even religion. The intrepretation of a powerful, angy God, note, is a close approximation of the angry, powerful father figure in the home.
Mom, too, has to prepare the male child for military service which might end in his death.
So to be clear, if we see this family structure in historical terms, many if not most warring nations produce this structure, encourage it and welcome it. So do many religions. So do many social structures.
Because it is functional for many nations. And, it has been around for many thousands of years. From the Romans, the early Israelites, Christians, the Greeks, show many examples of the all powerful father dominated family structure, women, slaves and other conquered peoples all in the same family structure. This is the Roman example.
Of course, a society which is at war or threatened, can utilize that threat to insist upon obedience as a virtue to ensure the survival of the nation.
So there is a relationship between a country's history, social mores and the family structures it produces.
Now we can ask how many families in the United States exhibit this structure? We have partially explored the reinforcing and interlocking aspects of its generation. Now we want to know how many.
Approximately, (a guess) 45%. How do we know? One survey found that approximately 45% of Americans see God as an angry, revengeful God who is involved in our everyday lives. This, is of course, not a scientific answer to the question but it is reasonable to assume that a family belief in a God of that nature will likely corrolate to the father-dominant family structure we have posited.
Now keep in mind a father-dominant figure in the home who, to the children and the wife, looks, acts and feels like the Christian God of the old testament, can be scary.
So what we want to do next time is to return to look at the how all of this affects the children and the wife, and the father as we continue our exploration of the 7 variables identified above.
Things are getting complicated. But things human usually are.
A last point to make is that a warring nation does form and even distort family structures to meet the eigencies of war itself. The population has to be ready for war and since obedience in an military context is essential for success in war this family structure is consistent with those kinds of national needs.
So these lessons are first learned at home and accounts in part for the prevalence of this family structure thoughout most of history.
Oct 9, 2010
But the dominat-father structure is not the only structure we can observe in society.
If we take current religious ideas about the nature and involvement of God in our lives, that survey found that:
1-25% of Americans believe God is benevolent and not directly involved in our daily lives.
2-23% believe that God is distant and removed from our daily lives
3-15% believe that God is critical but removed from directly influencing our daily lilves.
4- Only 2% of Americans see themselves as atheists.
So most people profess a belief in God and have notions of what personality and penchants that God might have.
Now for a country to survive, internal family strife cannot be universal, although some societies have tried to create the totally military society, preparing young men for war from an early age age and positing glory and victory in war as the highest ideal young men can aspire to. It is easy to see how those same societies would want the family structure to compliment, indeed generate such young men.
So family structure matters in states which see themselves as under threat or who have frequent wars.
But what of the 25% in the American survey that see God as benevolent; as kind? I suspect there is a close coorolation between this belief and new testament Christians who see in those pages a kind and benevolent God. Jesus counseled to seek the divine within, rejected the rebel role for one more pacifist in nature.
This is a God of kindness and mercy-yet is still God.
So we ask how is this reflected in the family structure currently and historically.?
Let's look at the dominant but benevolent father- mother counselor family structure.
Here the father is dominant but mother is a counselor, often consulted and somewhat more of a partner in family matters. Often the two will cooperate, and even divide family duties between them. She makes decisions or takes initiatives in areas related to the home, church, the children and the couples social life.
This is a more of a cooperative model, yet underneath the father in cases of conflict usually prevails especially in areas where he has assumed control; money, jobs, ultimate decisions about the kids, career and where the family lives.
The two are more community minded in this model and more plugged into activities outside the home. So how do they fare in society and historically?
For a link to an article on these four views of God, see below.
Lets have a closer look at this benevolent structure tomorrow.
5-20-11 Dominant Father Female Child
But first lets finish up the dominant father as regards the female child.
Three outcomes are possible. The oldest daughter patterns herself after the dominant father, and becomes the masculinized female, often bullying her younger siblings male and female.
She is the strong achieving female, holds the mother in contempt as weak and seeks to become the father in his absence. Importantly, the masculined female has challenged the mother sexually as well. She develops early and in some cases becomes the pychological sexual partner of the father, especially if the two parents are no longer being intimate. She can be intelligent, high achieving, charming, confident and deadly. Mother, in extremes cases, defer to her, feeling beaten down and grateful for the help with the siblings.
The other possibity we have alluded to is the daddy's little girl syndrome. Here a compromise has been achieved. Mother allows this because there is no threat to her, of a sexual nature, (who is the woman of the household) and Dad is ok with it because affection can be showered on the child without infuriating mother. This becomes a child-center holdhold where the daddy's girl becomes the way the parents relate rather than real relating. It grows a self-centered, selfish child.
Finally the oldest female child can simply withdraw psychologically, rebel, or become totally absorbed with something or someone outside the family. This is expecially the case if Dad picks the youngest female child as his favorite daddy's girl and if Mother is hostile to her, or if she grows anger against both parents.
At last possibilty is that the oldest female child becomes substitute mother, offering support to mother, helps with the kids, and tries to parent both parents. Healing the family becomes her life and she likely doesn't marry especially if mother has some chronic illness.
Her withdrawal is less obvious and is presented as devotion to the family. She is often seen as the responsible female child, helping with the siblings and mature or wise beyond her years. She can be very content in that role for years.
6-2-11--Family Structure, Values and Nation-States
Now we look at the connection between this struture and the development of attitudes, actions and values in the real world.
We now look at these which you will recall are how the family structure affect notions of:
4-The family itself
5-Society and Politics
7- World views
The oldest son while taking his notion of manhood from the dominant father soon learns that Dad will not allow him to compete for leadership of the family. The oldest son is treated like the women of the family when he challenges Dad for leaderhip and is slapped down.. The oldest son may develop a psychological affinity for mom in resenting dad but he can't let it show for fear of conflict wilth dad.
This inner tension about manhood may show up as bullying siblings or others outside the family, or in aggressive sports and activities.
Usually, the oldest son will exit the family at the first opportunity for an early marriage or liason, to go off into military service or even jail.
Dad meantime excluded from the emotional life of the family substitutes and compensates for that exclusion by identifying his role as that of the provider, gives gifts, exercises power, and money.and is dominant with women.
This is exactly the way of being in the world the son takes with him into the real world. But the son make make the rationalization that he is better than dominant dad because he felt protectiive of mom and he takes that with him into the real world as well.
Now if you lay these tendencies along side of American foreign policy we see that in our two wars in Irag and Afganistan we actually bought off local chieftains, gave gifts of money, (millions) and dominated the country, acted as we choose and told them we would teach them how to be democratic while professing a respect for women and children while the enemy did not.
This is the notion of Freedom produced by this family type.
Justice bcomes the notion that all who are under my control will be treatedly equally and with justice and I decide what that justice will be. Any one who revolts against my right to decide these things will feel my power.
Love becomes providing gifts, sharing power if the woman is special, money and providing.
So we see what is not only the connection between family structure and nation-state behavior but also how family structures are carried down the generations. Oldest son carries these notion into any family he creates as well. All this is actively encouraged by the society, the media, and the culture.
This family structure has been in place for centuries-East and West.
Of course there are other family structures existing along side this one but the dominant father structure has been in place the longest.
Second son in this structure takes the roles left for him. Usually he will opt away from the conflict with dad and older brother by playing the clown, or withdrawing, or develop solo interests, or adopt a secret life, or becomes a superhero in video games (guess who the real villian in video games are: Dad, big brother or school bullies. How many Columbines do we have to have to get this point clear--all this is connected with family.
Freedom for second son becomes the super hero freedom to save the women and children and kill the domineering super criminal. Freedom is about elevating others from domination.
Justice is legal justice and if that does't work, summary justice will do just like dad did it.
Love is caring for women and children the weak, often minorities and protecting them from the powerful, evil dad figures thereby earning the love and devotion of moms and downtrodden everywhere- a devotion mom was afraid to show because dad would get angry with her for 'coddling" son number two.
Convoluted huh? But these are the kinds of tensions people live with and those tensions are rooted in the family structures we subject our children to.
More family types tomorrow.
6-3-11--Dominant Family Structure and Political Strutures
Just a note today to make the point that just as the dominant father-passive mother family structure has dominated human history the political corrollary has been Dominant Government--Passive Population.
Just like the dominant father structure government has played the role of:
1. Handing out gifts and charity to its historically impoverished peoples and has been a trade mark of governments whose very operations perpetuate that need for charity, gifts, financial assistance by a dominant class acting through the government.
2-Justice is justice administered by the king, pharoah, dictator where all are equally treated alike. (Equal Justice?) But the only one allowed freedom to act without retribution is the government. (Still that way it seems) and now add to the list corporations.
3-Outsiders are still women, the young, the minorities: they do not act, they are acted upon.
4-Love is caring for the weak who are kept weak by the very system itself.
Note that we have in the United States virtually the same political structures that existed in the Roman republic, and the same kind of politics and essentially the same wars, and the same family structures.
The experience in families implant a mind map in individuals as to what their government ought to be like.
The main difference over the years has been the introduction of new family structures identified above which as altered the dynamics somewhat.
Lets have a look at how that has played out historically on tomorrow.
6-18-11 Other Family Structures and their impact.
Other family structures impact all of the items discussed above as well although not as much. Let's talk generally about two of these types generally and then go into detail later. Here are several types we can lump together for now and then differentiate them later on.
1.The Benevolent Father, Participating Mother. Here mother has some autonomy but Dad makes the final decisions in cases of conflict. The kids in this structure learn to negotiate for what they want and can become experts at manipulating both parents. This structure is more cooperative and it has much to recommend. But it is a minority among family types. These kids learn later in life that sometimes things are not negotiable because work life and corporate life is not democratic and does not reflect their family structure. Dominant father family members move into the corporate world seamlessly and generally do better once there, but the benevolent father, participating mother structures often build better social structures and expect different kinds of things from their government, but corporate life is difficult for many of them. More on this later.
2. The Absent Father Family Structure. Here the kids lean that no one is in control except mom, and while that works in their younger years the males especially, the older males, are dependent upon mom at home but outside the home everything tells them that they should be "real men." While often devoted to mom they also easily become bullies, warriors, crooks and ladies men becoming a mixture of mom's hero and the man of the house. They are attached to mom but at the same time resent the absent dad and often act out that resentment in inappropriate ways. They become rebels without a focus for their rebellion. (The values that flow from this structure and expectations of government also vary. (But we will do the detail later.)
The discipline needed to succeed is often lacking in this structure except in certain cases but not always. Even without the male discipline some of the kids learn to grown up on their own nonetheless and become very creative and very successful--especially in cases where the mother is ill or has chronic problems. These kids become the adults in the family, mature quickly, and often do just fine in life but they do harbor resents against male authority figures.
But many if not most also seek father figures in society, religion, government or corporations where strong male influence is projected as power and success.
So adversity for some becomes opportunity for others-but it is rocky for most from this family structure
The Multicultural Family Structure-7-18-11
This family structure is by-far the most numerious and you'll see why in its definition.
Multicultural here refers to instances, married, blended, "shacking up" where any two people come together to try to make a family.
It refers to situations:
1-Where people marry up or marry down.
2-Where individuals of two different religions marry
3-Where individuals of two different races marry
4-Where individuals from two different countries of even two different regions of the same country marry or otherwise create a family.
5. Where two individuals of two different generations (a generation is defined as five years)
So what we want to know is what are the effects of these kinds of families on the children, their values, politics, and the roles they play in that family.
Note this is a very common configuration. For most of human history marrying outside one's own family, one's own villiage, or clan has been the basic rule. Why? And to what effect?
Placing incest prohibitions aside why have humans deemed this rule so important?
We will have a look, albeit, a necessarily truncated one, at these types of families.
Meantime, what is your thought about why this has persisted over thousands of years?
7-25-11 Multicultural Family Structures
As can be seen above the variations on this family structure are very numerous. Therefore, examples are the best that can be done here rather than taking each family variation in detail.
Historically, in my view this family structure has been the counterpoint to the dominant father variety although sometimes the two varieties can co-exist, where multicultural societies exist above dominant father family structures.
The best example is the Roman one. Normally the most common view of the Roman family structure is that of the dominant male, who dominated wives, slaves, male and female slaves whose ethos was glory for the Roman state.
This is a fact of course. But what is overlooked is that this was not the secret of Roman society or Roman greatness. Many observers when asked the secret of the Roman Empire will argue that it was Roman engineering, or Roman military might, or even Roman family structure.
But I would argue otherwise. The secret of Roman greatness and the greatness of the Greeks, the Egyptians and others lies in the fact that the Romans and these others were enormously imitative. All great societies in my view, or a least most of them essentially utilized the Microsoft and Apple strategies, that is identify a good idea and steal it and overwhelm or conquer or absorb the creative secrets of others, and other societies.
Remember that Roman was the most cosmopolitan city of its time. Individuals and ideas from all around the empire came to Rome. It was the melting pot of its day. In fact the original mud hut city of Rome stole most of it ideas, art and ethos from its rival the Etruscans. Since Rome defeated the Etruscans they wrote the history.
A similar story is the case with the Greek. It is no accident that Egypt’s great city is named Alexandria after Alexander the Great. Alexander did not merely conquer he absorbed competing empires and peoples, left their cultures intact and forced his generals to marry local princesses. Cleopatra herself was a Ptolemy descended from one of Alexander’s generals and spoke Greek, the linguia franca of the ancient world
Much the same is true of many great empires including the American empire which is the latter day melting pot of last 200 years.
The point here is that multicultural families and even societies which have been multicultural in cast have always dominated history, many despite their often dominant father family structures.
What should this be so? The simple answer is that exposure to other or competing ideas generates genius, growth and vitality. Whereas exposure to others who share your same ideas breeds stultification and stagnation.
Being reared in multicultural family structures hard-wires the brain differently than being reared in a mono-cultural family. A flexible, adaptable brain structure as a function of a multicultural environment creates the adaptability which is the hallmark of the successful rise of the human race.
A mouthful huh? It turns out that the same is true up multilingual individuals. They tend to score higher on IQ tests.
UC Berkley studies show time and time again that multicultural, multilingual individuals do better at Berkeley and tend to have higher IQ's.
Now tomorrow we devolve down deeper into this multicultural idea and its opposite mono-cultural societies.
Of course, we have no panacea here; a multicultural background can leave individuals feeling like they don’t fit in and there can be trouble, alienation and bad outcomes. Let’s have a look at that too in the coming days. The short summary is the more exposure from an early age changes potential.
Is there a relationship between PSTD and Family Experiences
"The researchers found that the participants' implicit race attitudes, measured in a subsequent test, predicted disparities in the perceived trustworthiness of Black and White faces. Individuals whose tests demonstrated a stronger pro-White implicit bias were more likely to judge White faces as more trustworthy than Black faces, and vice versa, regardless of that individual's own race or explicit beliefs."