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Family Dynamics: Nuclear Family

The nuclear family is the family which you have created with your spouse, partner, or co-parent. The nuclear family is the family from which future generations of your family name or DNA will continue on. There are many different make-ups of one's nuclear family. To simplify that, I will choose to focus on the traditional nuclear family. By traditional, I mean mother, father, and children. Additionally, there are many aspects and topics which are important to understand about one's nuclear family so, again, I will limit my scope to parental dynamics, birth order, and family member roles.

In a traditional family system, the structure is typically top-down with the parents establishing the boundaries and expectations while the children operate within the limits of the system. There are three overarching types of parenting styles. The three main types create the umbrella under which the many other parenting styles fall.

The three styles are Permissive, Authoritarian, & Authoritative. Permissive is self-explanatory - Child: "Can I stay up late?" Parent: "Sure no problem!" Authoritarian is strict parenting - Child: "Can I stay up late?" Parent: "Absolutely not. Bedtime is 8:30 pm sharp, and it is 8:31 pm. Consequences for you!" Authoritative parenting is a diplomatic parenting style - Child: "Can I stay up late?" Parent: "It's not good for you to stay up late, but if you are able to get up early, and do a good job helping me with the housework, then I am OK with that. If you don't do a good job, there will be consequences."

Birth order and family roles are somewhat linked—in that, in a traditional family system the children may take on specific attributes or exhibit specific traits dependent upon their birth order. For example, the eldest child is typically most independent and family-oriented while the youngest is typically the most dependent either emotionally or financially though they may operate as a contrarian to the initial family system, sometimes even altering it all-together.

Conversely, depending upon the parenting style you may see this reversed. For example, with a permissive parenting style, the eldest child may become even more so family focused, and their identity becomes dependent upon the family while the primary responsibility may fall on them to create a sense of order and stability within the family system. This leaves the youngest feeling as if they cannot rely on the parents to meet their needs within the family system, therefore they become more independent and resourceful.

In short, with family systems there is a much deeper science involved which helps explains human behavior, but as we examine this, we can better understand our habits and tendencies while adjusting them to be more helpful and productive in our lives.

Working with a licensed professional can help you understand these patterns of behavior and develop new ways to operate and bring a higher level of satisfaction and fulfillment in your life.

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Sam Nabil is the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.

Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.

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