Family roles are steady functions of the family system secured for all its members. Family role structure ascribes duties, commitments and obligations to each family member, and stipulates the sequence of their implementation. The notion of “role” covers wishes, aims, feelings, beliefs, values, and actions expected from an individual.
The process of family roles distribution begins in the early period of courting and assumes new dimensions after the marriage. Nuptial bliss largely depends on the cohesion of spouses’ actions, as well as their willingness and readiness to undertake certain family roles.
Kirkpatrick singles out three groups of family roles: traditional, friendly and affiliate. Traditional roles on the part of wife include giving birth and bringing up children, loyal subordination of personal interests to those of the husband, adaptation to the dependence and so on. Traditional roles on the part of husband are as follows: fidelity to the wife, exertion of influence and control, economic security of the family, decision-making, gratitude to the wife for her ability to be subordinated.
The fact that emotions are a crucial component of family life cannot be disregarded. Each family has its own emotional life, specific methods of communication and emotional expression. Emotional communication is a process of information exchange about one’s emotional state, which is carried out on various levels (verbal and nonverbal).
Psychologist Carl Yung has defined individuation as a process of gaining individualization and realizing oneself as a unique being with its own specific needs and makings. An individual goes through the process of individuation during his whole life, incorporating himself into the social world first, and trying to stand out from the crowd and gain personal inimitable traits later.
Individuation is also a process of obtaining integrity and completeness. Carl Yung describes it as a possibility to discern and omprehend a myriad of faces and voices.
Talking about communication, it should be noted that people associate with each other in many ways besides oral conversation. They actively use nonverbal means of information transfer: gestures, facial expressions, intonation, and even breath frequency. Communication style is a quasi-response to stress, which people utilize more or less intensively in various situations. Controversial or vague communication is often perceived as a danger. It cannot be interpreted unequivocally. Gradually families crystallize their own communication habits, which help them deal with situations of utmost danger.
Virginia Satir (1983) developed four communication styles: obsequious, accusatory, evasive, and intellectualization. The table below demonstrates the components of each style.
According to Nickols (1984), “Family subsystem is a local differentiated set of family roles, which allows a family to perform selectively its duties and other vital functions”. Each family member can be participate in several subsystems (parental, matrimonial, children’s, feminine etc.) at the same time.
Simultaneous functioning in various subsystems is not very efficient usually. When mother scolds her son for poor progress in school, saying: “This is because your father is a dawdle and does not want to be a role model for you”, she combines two subsystems subliminally – parental and conjugal. Behavior of this kind results in both son and husband being impervious to criticism and their ensuing desire to unite in order to reconcile the aggressor.
As people grow older, they start to embrace the idea that family life is the most complicated kind of activity. It is incumbent on family members to undertake certain responsibilities, fulfill certain conditions, and take all necessary measures, which guarantee mutual consent of family members. To this end, each family agrees on its own rules, for example:
1) Family membeers get together to eat, rest, and make important decisions.
2) If the door to someone’s room is closed, it is essential that others knock before entering.
3) Each family member warns others that he/she will be late.
4) Each family member has his/her own responsibilities over the house.
5) The corporal punishment of children is excluded.
6) Each family member keeps his/her stuff on his/her own shelf.
The above list is not thorough and cannot be applied to all the families.
According to Satir (1976), “Family myths represent a complex of integrated, though implausible convictions that are shared by all family members”. These convictions concern the family members’ relationship and are not usually called into question by those involved, despite numerous distortions contained in these beliefs. Family myth is a homeostatic mechanism aimed at maintaining “stable state” of the family. It protects individuals from taking a serious view on reality.
Some of the most widespread myths are the following:
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1) Happy married couples do not ever altercate.
2) Spatial proximity is necessary for the unity of families.
3) Successful spouses always notify their mates of their secrets.
Family ritual is an unwritten family law that people defer to, because they have developed a habit or are persuaded that it is a right thing to do. Family rituals are considered observed in case all family members accomplish them.
The following are examples of family rituals:
1) Mutual meal.
2) Family evening ritual.
3) Small responsibilities within child’s powers can also be a family ritual.