Hey all! As part of psychology week here on ParentalGrit, I thought I’d include a great piece from someone who actually knows what she’s talking about! If you missed it, Monday and Tuesday were spent exploring GAME THEORY and the adorably frustrating head games my toddler has begun to play. As much I enjoy armchair amateur psychology that embarrasses both my family and myself, it might be beneficial to hear some actual words of insight on the topic. Savannah Esposito runs the fabulous Millennial Mrs. and Mom (links and info towards the end) and she graciously agreed to give us some legitimate content on psychology and family life. Enjoy and be sure to check out her website for additional resources. Without further ado…
The Importance of Psychology in Family Life
Families are extremely dynamic and no two families are exactly the same. There are many reasons for that such as culture, personalities, socio-economic status, environment, and more. But beyond all those reasons is a deeper cause for the unique dynamics within families and that is your psychological makeup. Below I’ll be addressing many of the ways psychology is important to understanding the family life.
Family History & Pre-dispositions
Every family has a history— both “nature and nurture” histories. A family’s “nature” history simply means their biology and genetics. A father’s side of the family might have a history of heart disease or depression, and thus that might be passed down to their children. Speaking in terms of “nurture,” that refers to the environment they grew up in. Was the home loving or harsh? Did they live in a safe neighborhood or one riddled with crime? These are very important questions when it comes to understanding yourself and your history. Reflecting on your family of origin if you are now married can help you understand a lot about the reasons behind the way you act today.
Dynamics within the family are also quite important when understanding yourself. Ask yourself these questions: How did my parents interact? Was my dad head of house hold? Were my parents equals? Did my sibling bully me? Did my sibling defend me? Was my mom independent? These are just some basic questions to get you thinking about the dynamics you grew up in.
For example, my own house hold was me, my sister, and my parents. The dynamics in the house were that my parents were equals, but my father was more logical than my mother. My sister and I ended up listening to my dad more often than my mom because his decisions were based in logic. I’ve noticed within myself, I’ve continued that pattern with myself and relationships. I found that in the past, I’d listen to my partner more than I would listen to my own voice. Once I was aware of that pattern it was much easier to change.
In family dynamics, there can be a hierarchy as I mentioned. This can play a role in how you see yourself and how you see marriage. If you were the youngest sibling, you might have had the least amount of say or power, but if you were the first-born child you may have implicitly understood that your voice mattered. Look at yourself and your spouse and figure out where you two are. Is he the youngest child and you the middle? Are you the eldest and he the only child? Birth order does play a role in how relationships unfold. If you want more information on birth orders, the book “The Birth Order Book” by Kevin Leman is a great read and helps you understand the dynamics birth roles play.
When it comes to your parents, watching how they interact with each other can be very telling when it comes to the partner you eventually will. Often times, subconsciously, we end up with someone that reminds us of one of our parents. As children, we see our parents and we know that they are our caretakers, our life source. If a positive, healthy bond, has been established, then we as individuals are much more capable of going out and finding healthy people. If we never bonded correctly, then we are much more likely to struggle to find healthy people because we have never learned what a healthy bond is. To learn more about bonds and attachment, I’ve written a post that breaks it down.
My mom and I often joke about how my dad must have felt overwhelmed at times with me, my mom, and my sister. He was the only male in the house with three women who are strong willed, stubborn, and savvy. I often wondered why I didn’t get along with my mom when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older I realized that similar personalities can really clash because those with similar personalities often see traits in the other that they don’t like within themselves. By that logic, when you are around a similar personality, and they do something that irritates you, it might be something within yourself that you are seeing in the other person.
Think about your own family. Is your mom outgoing or reserved? Is your father a leader or a follower? Is your sibling (if you have one) dominant or submissive? Are you the mediator or the instigator? Finding your own families patterns of personality can make you aware of the differences you have and how to handle them. Another great part of realizing personalities is that you will see the people in your family that are going to be there for you and can give you the support you need versus the people who might not be capable depending on their personality type.
ParentalGrit: We’ll be back tomorrow with the second half of Savannah’s article!