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In this lesson we’re going to take a look at family structure and the impact it has on development.
When we think about family, we need to remember that family is the relationship that a patient has with the people that they spend their most time around, and that they assigned to a particular role within their home.
When we talk about the nuclear family, what we’re talking about is a married couple plus dependent biological children. This is your standard family unit.
And then you can move on to the extended family, which is the idea of the nuclear family unit and it excludes relatives outside of the nuclear family. So These are people like aunts and uncles and grandparents.
Another family form that you’re going to need to think about is the single parent family. This includes one parent plus children that are dependent, and it’s usually a result of death, divorce, or desertion. Keep these things in mind when you’re caring for your patients and you’re aware that they come from a single-parent home or they are involved in a single parent family unit. Roles tend to change a little bit more, and sometimes depending on the responsibilities, those within that family unit could be under more stress than others.
The last one that we’re going to talk about here is the blended family unit. This is when you have married couple and they’re adding in their dependent children from a previous marriages or relationships. So this would be like parents, step parents and stepchildren.
Now we start to look at family forms outside of the nuclear family unit, and the small variances of those, then we start to get into things like Foster families and adopted families.
We talked about foster families, what we’re talking about is a relationship between the parents and the children. The parents in that family unit are not the legal guardians of those children. And it really only pertains to custody. They can make medical decisions about them, but usually the state or the agency responsible for the kids have the legal guardianship of them.So if you’re taking care of a patient that is a foster child, be aware that the foster parents may not be able to make all legal medical decisions about that patient.
Adopted children and adoptive parents are a different family unit. What’s happened here is that the parents have taken legal steps to become the legal guardians of those children. This is essentially a nuclear family and the only difference is that the children are not the biological children.
Now the other type of family unit that you may run into is an LGBT family unit, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. The only difference with this family unit is that while they may remain nuclear, in that there are two parents with children, usually only one of the parents is biological or they may have adopted. So a blended family and a nuclear family and an adopted family.
You may also run into another family unit called a skip generation family unit. This is often where grandparents have become legal guardians of their grandchildren, and they are now the responsible adults.
Last one that you may run into is something called cohabiting partners. This is where you have a mother and father, or a couple, where the children are biological dependents of both the children, and the only difference is that the parents aren’t legally married.
Now I know there a lot of variances of all the different family units, but your responsibility as the nurse is that you have to understand the impact that the family structure plays into development.
It’s important to understand that every family unit has a specific role for each person within it. And for the most part every person has a role within the unit and they can very much follow societal norms. But they can also be changed, and they can be changed based on the needs of the family. For instance if you have an adolescent male patient, with a single mother, that team could then begin to fill the role as the adult male in the house. He may feel like he has more responsibility in taking care of the family, and he may also share a financial burden. Another example you might see is a single father with small children. Not only does he have to be the financial support for those children, he also has to play the role of the mother.
Where it begins to get tricky is that people within these non-nuclear roles can begin to feel like they’re facing ridicule from society. Also changes within the family units can also cause conflict. If you have a nuclear family and the parents get a divorce, one of the parents leaves, one of the parents unfortunately dies, then the roles could begin to change within the unit, and depending on the age of everyone within the family, that can impact development as it can cause stress.
Just like all the other lessons with development, a row common question is where does the nurse fit into this picture.
We just talked about, you need to be aware of the family structure, and you need to understand the roles that each person has within that unit.
Use your resources, and educate the family and the patient on ways that can actually benefit the family and use your knowledge and resources to help reduce stress or anxiety, and lessen the burdens for the patient and family. Be sure to always be paying attention to the family dynamics, and the role that the patient’s play within their family unit.
In this lesson, we really focused on building those interpersonal relationships with the family, and human development within the family unit. We’ve also used the concept of cognition through development when were talking about family structure.
Okay so let’s recap.
When were talking about the nuclear family, we’re talking about parents and their dependent children, but also think about ways that these family units change.
Also taking in consideration family variances, and that non-nuclear family structures are also family unit.
As you care for your patients, think about the roles that each member has within their family unit, and also think about the challenges that each patient and family member face whenever roles change.
Also think about that rolls can be challenged throughout the developmental process.
As a nurse, remember to educate your whenever your patients are sick, because we want to try to maintain their family structure as best as possible.
That’s our lesson on family structure.Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!!