Family Types

By Philip Chang, Centre for Fathering

Although every family is unique, there are significant similarities between all families, there are three characteristic types or patterns that are observable: Autocratic, Permissive and Nurturing family types.

The Autocratic Family

This is where one or both parents rule the family with absolute authority. Here the parenting style is rigid, domineering allowing very little freedom or responsibility for the children. Children are pressured to fit into a mould determined by parent(s) with punishment and rewards. Such children struggle to think, feel, believe, and even dream independently outside their parent’s wishes. As a result, the children have serious difficulties establishing their independent self-identities as they grow up. Rules in autocratic families tend to the inflexible, inappropriate, and rigidly enforced. Unquestioning obedience rather than healthy development is fostered. Such children tend to have weak self-ego, co-dependent on others, emotionally delicate and indecisive.

The Permissive Family

Permissive families reject the harsh and uncompromising stance of autocratic parenting styles, preferring not to accept responsibility for creating a mould for the children to conform. Instead they are encouraged to chart their own course and do their own thing. Little emphases are given to family order and routine. Consequently few boundaries are drawn leading to inconsistencies in family relationships and loose family ties. As a result the children are confused leading to their insecurity and poor socialization abilities. Whereas autocratic families have too much control and too little freedom, permissive families have too much freedom and too little control. This can be a very confusing environment for child.

The Nurturing Family

Nurturing families place a high value on freedom, equality, and responsibility. The primary focus is on meeting individual needs of all family members and promoting their personal growth and development. Family rules in nurturing families are both flexible and appropriate as they are consistently maintained. Personal freedom is encouraged but with limits to proper consideration for others. This builds healthy ego boundaries and socialization skills amongst the members.

Family types are not static but dynamic. At any given moment a family might assume a structure that includes the characteristics of one or more of the 3 family types ensuring that family rules mirror the typical changes in the family structure and according to the developmental stages in their children’s lives.

Reflection pointers for fathers …

  1. What do you think is your family type, autocratic, permissive or nurturing? Is it appropriate and effective in promoting healthy developments in your children?
  2. What adjustments do you think you would like to make, if any, to further improve the development of well-being and socialization for your family today? You may wish to discuss your thoughts with your spouse and later with the whole family for greater participation from them as you seek to promote healthy growth through the stages of life for them.

Action pointers for fathers …

  1. Set up a family spring cleaning this weekend. Assign tasks appropriate to their age of your children, giving them ‘total responsibility’ and ‘dependence’ on them doing this part of the cleaning. Praise them for a job well done and have a reward meal for dinner.
  2. Hold a post new year party for your child /children and have them invite their friends. This will allow you an insight into their friends and their world.
Family Types

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