The Impact of Family Atmospheres on Children
By Henry T.
This material is
protected by copyright and may not be reproduced or distributed
without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein.
The following charts are from the handouts included in the Alfred
Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington's Distance Training Program,
Course DT304: Classical Adlerian Child and
These concepts are based on the original ideas of Edith Dewey. Also see Impact of Parenting Styles on Children, since some of the parenting styles and family atmospheres overlap. Only the democratic atmosphere prepares a child for cooperation. The others may provoke a lack of trust, drain his courage, and emphasize the mistaken value of superiority over others. The other atmospheres may also breed self-centeredness, emotional distance, and inhibit the development of empathy for others.
Changing a family atmosphere may require parents to change their fundamental views of life, atttudes toward other people, and feelings. These charts, reflecting an extension of Alfred Adler's concepts, were devised to be used by counselors and psychotherapists in the context of an Adlerian family therapy process.
The Impact of Family Atmospheres on Children - I
||PROBABLE CHILD RESPONSE
||Knowledgeable leader, tries to guide,
stimulate and win cooperation. Uses encouragement and
logical consequences. Creates a climate of fairness,
equality, respect, and reason. He makes it safe to
||Child feels that his social world is
safe, reasonable, and appealing. He can prepare himself
for democratic living as an adult.
||Parent demands absolute and unquestioned
obedience. Home is run like a military installation.
Power and might make right.
||Children may be polite, but shy and timid
with evidence of nervous tension. Conforming children
cannot solve their own problems always look others for
direction. Rebellious children may resort to evasive maneuvers of
lying and stealing. Child may wait until adolescence to rebel.
||Parents have excessively high
expectation, goals, and standards.
||If child feels he cannot live up to
parents' expectation he may become discouraged and
feeling inadequate. Even if he performs well he is often
worried about possible failure.
||Family stresses success, each trying to
outdo the others. Accentuated if both parents are very
||Child who cannot be the best, may settle
for being the worst. The competent child may be spurred
on, but may feel anxiety and apprehension unless he
believes he will come out on top. The discouraged child
may begin to feel hopeless.
||Child is denied freedom to express
thoughts or feelings honestly. Frequent reprimands.
||He learns to put up a front and begins
daydreaming. He does not trust his own feelings and
avoids close relationships.
||Family values acquisition and money;
security is based on what one owns or controls. Material
possessions are given greater value than simple pleasures
or warm human relationships.
||If child is deprived of his possessions
or what he feels entitled to, he feels distraught and
empty. He usually lacks inner resources and creativity.
Later on, he may find it hard to manage on a limited
income, or rebel and become anti-materialistic.
|Child is prevented from learning by
denying him practice in coping with difficult or
unpleasant situations. The protection robs him of courage
and self-reliance. The parent also rescues the child from
experiencing the consequences of his actions.
||Child may say a "baby" who
feels small, weak, and helpless. He is unable to function
independently and tries to put everyone in his service
with charm, tears, or temper.
|Parents shower the child with attention,
service, toys, or praise. The child is treated like a
prince or princess.
||Child passively waits for next offering
of adults. Child may avoid contact with other children,
since they have little to offer, and he may be expected
The Impact of Family Atmospheres on Children - II
||PROBABLE CHILD RESPONSE
||Discipline is erratic and routines are
non-existent. Often related to substance abuse. Eating
and cleaning schedule may be unreliable.
||Child does not know what to expect of
others or what is expected of him. Without order and
kind, firm discipline, the child may not develop
self-discipline. He may become unmotivated,
uncontrollable, and crave excitement. His life may be a
||Parents frequently quarrel or fight.
Discipline varies with the mood of the parent. Child may
be used a weapon in parents conflict.
||Child may conclude that only power is
important. May become aggressive and willing to hurt
others to get even. May like commotion, rule breaking,
and flirting with danger.
||Frequent criticism. Parent relieves own
inferiority feeling by making child appear worthless.
Cynical attitude my also be directed against others
outside family who are "different'.
||Child may become the
"scapegoat" of the family, masking other parent
or child problems. If the chid is active, he may rebel
violently, and duplicate the disparagement by hurting
||Child may be rejected because of
appearance or behavior. Parents do not separate
"deed" from "doer".
||Child feels not accepted and unloved. He
may not be able to trust others or himself. A
"good" child may push down the "bad"
child. Another child may be favored by the parents.
||Parent demonstrates how brutal others are
and how innocent or helpless he/she is. Noble suffering
is enhanced by looking down on the abuser. Frequent in
co-alcoholism and physical abuse.
||Child imitates the noble suffering, feels
sorry for himself, and sees life as unfair. His
accusation of others is concealed behind good intentions
and self righteousness. The victim stance frees him from
||Parent does not see that pity is a form
of disrespect for the child. Even pity justified by a
situation is damaging.
||Child may be handicapped, sickly,
orphaned, adopted, or has suffered a loss or misfortune.
Child begins to feel sorry for himself and expects
special privileges. Child may provoke further abuse or
suffering to gain sympathy.
||Parent is discouraged and pessimistic,
and is consequently unable to encourage the child. (The
hopelessness can be overcome by an encouraging teacher or
therapist, or a series of successes.)
||The child may feel absolutely defeated,
seeing little hope for himself and an improvement in his
situation. He may retreat into fantasy or get locked into
acting out his despair.
For additional information about democratic parenting, read:
1. Adlerian Child Guidance Principles.
2. Impact of Parenting Styles on Children
3. Adult Consequences of Childhood
4. Dealing Effectively With Children's Mistaken Goals
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