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Family Structure & Academic Achievement of Children

Structural family theory and parental attachment theory will be used as a theoretical background to assist with the investigation into the effects of family role and structure on academic achievement in children. Kenny and Donaldson (1991) report on the theory of structural family theory, developed by Minuchin in 1974. According to this theory, a healthy family yields feelings of belongingness and differentiation to its members. With this in mind, a family that is either excessively enmeshed or disengaged tends to provide the opposite to its members. Interpersonal boundaries in the healthy family are not too rigid or diffuse, and therefore the children in this family are able to move toward separation and independence. When the boundaries are broken down, the child may take on inappropriate roles such as that of caretaker or confidante. Marital conflict can also lead to anxiety and maladaptive behaviors in children according to this theory. Thus when the family structure and roles are inappropriate they lead to psychological distress in the child.

The attachment theory also adds insight into the effects of different family structures. Kenny and Donaldson point out that attachment theory, discussed by Bowlby in 1969 and Ainsworth in 1978, views attachment as an enduring bond that gives the child a base of support which in turn allows for intellectual and social competence. When the child is securely attached to the parent, they are able to explore and master their environment. The connection between parent and child is recognized as important in the growth of the child. Thus the attachment model stresses the importance of the parent-child relationship, and the structural family model allows for an understanding of the ways in which this relationship is maintained or has become maladaptive (divorce, reduced number of parents, poverty). Both theories help explain how family structure would affect academic achievement.


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Family Structure & Academic Achievement of Children. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:03, August 09, 2020, from