Family dynamics refers to the forces at work within the family, the interaction between family members, along with the resultant behaviors. Families may or may not be biologically related, and family, in this context, refers to all persons that live within a household, as well as biological family members who may live outside the household. There are a multitude of factors which are related to family dynamics, including the structure of the family itself, the income level of the family, the attitude towards education and spirituality that permeates the family, the number of siblings and their interactions with each other, and so on.
While the nuclear family, consisting of a father, mother and children, still predominate society in the United States and other the world, there are a wide variety of family situations including approximately 21 percent single-mother families and 5 percent single father families in the United States. Additionally, families can consist of married and non-married couples without children, children raised by grandparents or extended family, step-parents or non-married heterosexual couples, as well as married or non-married homosexual couples. Additionally, some children are raised by siblings, and some are in a temporary foster care family arrangement. The particular structure of the family affects relationships between couples, and has an influence in the relationships between a child and his parents or caregivers, a child with his siblings, and behavioral outcomes.
Love and Nurturing
Love binds a child to parents or to the caregiver. Love is an essential element in healthy family dynamics. The book "Sociology in a Changing World" by William Kornblum of the City University of New York, states that a lack of parental attention can result in emotional problems and even, in extreme cases, early death. Studies indicate that nurturance and parental love play "an important role in the development of the individual."
Single Parent Families
Single parent mothers or fathers may rely more upon grandparents for support and caregiving. Children, then, may be more attached to grandparents than children who are raised in a family with both parents. Conversely, grandparents can sometimes be resentful of added burdens placed on them, and this can be reflected in the way they interact with their grandchildren. While single parent families may have additional stresses than nuclear families, successfully raising children and healthy family interactions are attainable.
While a high income is not a necessity for healthy family dynamics, income level can affect family dynamics. 60 percent of single mothers live below the poverty line in the United States. Dependence on government assistance, as well as the struggle to maintain daily needs, can affect a parent's view of themselves and their view and attitude towards the child. A high income level, however, does not ensure positive dynamics, but income level is only one factor among many that can have a bearing on family dynamics.
Kimberly Kopko an associate of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, describes four typical parenting styles: authoritative, firm but loving parenting; authoritarian, a somewhat dictatorial method of parenting; permissive, which is described as warm but undemanding and uninvolved parents. Parental warmth and responsiveness are also factors in family dynamics. Authoritative parenting is considered the most successful parenting style.