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Family disintegration: what it is and what effects it has

Family disintegration: what it is and what effects it has

June 11, 2024

Family disintegration is a phenomenon that has been specially studied since the 80's; moment in which an important transformation of the social organization of the family takes place.

It is a complex process that is usually analyzed from the negative psychological effects it can have on children. However, it is also a phenomenon that provides a lot of information about the values ​​that our societies organize and about the changes that have taken place in them.

Following the above we will see what is the family disintegration , what are some of its psychological effects and how has the organization of families been transformed in the last decades?

  • Related article: "The 8 types of family conflicts and how to manage them"

What is family disintegration?

The family, understood as the intermediate social unit between individual and community (Ortiz, Louro, Jiménez, et al, 1999) is one of the protagonists in our cultural organization. Its function has traditionally been understood in terms of satisfaction of economic, educational, subsidiary and cultural needs; through which values, beliefs, knowledge, criteria, roles are created , etc.

This occurs through an interactive and systematic relational dynamics between the members of a family (Herrera, 1997), that is, between people who share some form of kinship. In this sense, it is known as "family disintegration" the process by which the previously established organization of a related group of people is significantly modified .

But does every change in the organization of the family imply a disintegration? We could respond quickly in negative: not everything rearranged in the organization of a family implies its separation. For family disintegration to occur, the kinship or relational dynamics that unite its members must be qualitatively modified. Often, the latter is posed as caused by the absence of one of the parents or caregivers ; which, among other things, means that the traditional model of family has been considered as a unit of analysis.

Family breakdown or dysfunctional family?

Modification or family separation is not necessarily negative; that is, in many cases it is an agreement or a situation that ensures the physical or psychological well-being of the members.

Put another way, the rearrangement or disruption of a previously established family organization can be the solution to conflicting situations caused within the family , and as such, can have positive effects on its members. Depending on how family dynamics are, it can happen that their disintegration has more positive effects than their maintenance.

However, the concept of "family disintegration" usually refers specifically to the conflictual process of separation or modification, which, as such, generates negative effects for one or all of the parties involved.

Diversity in family models

As a form of organization and social group, the organization and the particular dynamics of the family responds to a series of norms and values ​​that are characteristic of a society and a specific historical moment.

Traditionally it was considered as dysfunctional or disintegrated any relative who did not follow the traditional model. Currently, the foregoing coexists with the recognition of single-parent families and families that are structured from the diversity of sexual identities (Bárcenas-Barajas, 2010), which among other things allows the social organization of the family to be rearranged at a structural level. .

Studies on its psychological effects

The negative effects of family disintegration on children have been studied. Broadly speaking, research has revealed that family disintegration makes it difficult to meet the needs that a family is expected to fulfill .

In the medium and long term, and at a psychological level, these studies have proposed, for example, that family disintegration has the effect of low self-esteem, feelings and behaviors of helplessness, as well as difficulties in establishing sex-affective bonds (Portillo and Torres, 2007 ; Herrera, 1997). Similarly, social behavior and its relationship with family disintegration, for example, has been investigated. in the increase of violent behavior or excessive withdrawal .

In the short term and in early childhood, it has been seen that family disintegration (when presented as an unforeseen event and a significant change in the daily structure) can cause confusion, anguish, guilt, anger or self-destructive behavior .

In any case it is important to take into account that, although studies have found relationships between variables (for example, between a low self-esteem score and an experience of family disintegration in childhood), this does not necessarily imply a causality: low self-esteem it can be caused by many other variables.

In fact, recent studies contradict traditional hypotheses and suggest that not in all cases the relationship between family disintegration and low self-esteem is proven (Portillo and Torres, 2007). The latter leads us to consider that not all people react in the same way, just as not all families and not all adults manage a disintegration process equally or with the same resources.

4 causes

The causes that have been studied and established traditionally as determining factors in the family disintegration are the following:

1. Abandonment

We understand "abandonment" helplessness, neglect, resignation or withdrawal . It is a situation that has been proposed as one of the main causes of family disintegration. In turn, this neglect, resignation or withdrawal can be caused by different causes.

For example, the absence of care or one of the primary caregivers is in many cases a consequence of the socioeconomic conditions that do not allow both domestic and provisioning demands to be met at the same time. In other cases, it may be due to the unequal distribution or reassembly of care or provision responsibilities within the family.

2. Divorce

In this context a divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. As such, it implies significant changes in the family dynamics that sustain a couple, with and without children . In turn, divorce can have many causes. For example, breach of the contract of fidelity of marriage, domestic and intrafamiliar violence, frequent disagreements between the people involved, among others.

3. Death

The death of one of the family members it is another of the main causes of family disintegration. In this case, the death of one of the parents or caregivers does not necessarily cause a rearrangement in the organization of the family. Especially if it is one of the children, a very important disintegration process can be experienced.

4. Migration

On many occasions the separation or disintegration of a family is a consequence of the migratory processes that lead one or both caregivers to move from the settlement city to another where they can aspire to improve their quality of life. Likewise the deportation processes that are taking place in many industrialized societies They have generated the same effect.

Bibliographic references:

  • Bárcenas-Barajas, K. (2010). Different families: from the institution to the movement. Structures and dynamics in the reconfiguration of order. Master's thesis, Master's in Communication of Science and Culture. Tlaquepaque, Jalisco: ITESO.
  • Portillo, C. and Torres, E. (2007). Effects on the raising of single-parent families: self-esteem.
  • Luengo, J. and Luzón, A. (2001). The process of transformation of the traditional family and its educational implications. Research at the school, 44: 55-68.
  • Ortiz, M., Louro, I., Jiménez, L. et al (1999). Family health: characterization in a health area. Cuban Journal of Comprehensive General Medicine. 15 (3): 303-309.
  • Herrera, P. M. (1997). The functional and dysfunctional family, a health indicator. Cuban Journal of Comprehensive General Medicine, 13 (6). Retrieved July 30, 2018. Available in //
  • Sampson, R. (1987). Urban Black Violence: The Effect of Male Joblessness and Family Disruption. American Journal of Sociology. 93 (2): 348-382.
  • McLanahan, S. & Bumpas, L. (1988). Intergenerational Consequences of Family Disruption. American Journal of Sociology. 130-152.

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