At age 15 my family really began to crash. My parents were getting divorced and my brother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. It is no longer something surprising for a kid to say, no matter the age. Seemingly, family instability is becoming more and more contagious. Many parents are divorcing, partaking in separation periods, or even still staying together but ignoring and abusing one another. Unfortunately, the world is lacking in its ability to care for the child’s well-being during these periods of transition. While I begin by giving an assessment of an American Sociological Review titled “Family and Instability and Child Well-Being”, I will progress to proposing research in the Rockford Area and also detailing alternative ideas for future research regarding the topic of discussion.
To begin, Fomby and Cherlin wrote the American Sociological Review journal article named, “Family and Instability and Child Well-Being.” The main research question can be correctly derived only after knowing two hypotheses of which they base their work. They used the instability hypothesis, which predicts that “children are affected by disruption and changes in family structure as much as (or even more) by the type of family structures they experience” (Fomby and Cherlin 181). The second hypothesis is the selection hypothesis which states that the “multiple transitions and negative child outcomes may be associated with each other through common causal factors reflected in the parents’ antecedent behaviors and attributes” (Fomby and Cherlin181). When the hypotheses are combined, it is clear Fomby and Cherlin seek to find out how children are affected by changes in family structure in contrast to the effects their parents’ behaviors have on them.
Fomby and Cherlin’s research design was very thorough and had much strength and only a few weaknesses. One reason their research was strong was because they used fairly recent data. This includes the 1979 through 2000 waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2000 mother-child supplement also from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and various other recent research and tests made by a range of professionals and colleagues on the topic (Fomby and Cherlin 182). An additional strength is the fact of the amount of research they used for support. They had over nine pages of sustainable and assisting information. Fomby and Cherlin also were sure to provide research on ideas that went a step further than their regular hypotheses they were following. For example, in addition to behavioral issues of parents, they provided studies on the differences by race. This showed that “for white women, the number of family structure transitions that a woman experiences was associated with a higher risk of first intercourse at an early age. For a black women, the number of transitions had no predictive effect, but family structure in adolescence was strongly associated with age at sexual initiation” (Fomby and Cherlin 183). Overall, Fomby and Cherlin’s mass amount of data collection strengthens their pursuit of a conclusion.
However, there were a few weaknesses I found based off an idea that everything has been stated before, and is only stated in a different idea. Fomby and Cherlin are looking at family structural changes and child-well being in a new light. In doing so, they are missing out on the most important part of the reason behind research. The point of research is to support a hypothesis, but very rarely does anybody propose an idea of how to correct or improve the topic of which they are researching. I will explain this further when I discuss ideas for future research.
Moreover, given the amount of research and results of this study, “instability may have a causal effect on some children’s behavior” (Fomby and Cherlin 201). This means that there is a defined line in the correlation of instability in families and it’s affect on children’s behavior. From experience, I can draw conclusions such as, that the degree of instability is roughly parallel with the degree of negative impact on the children’s behavior. After reading and analyzing the article, I can correctly state that the article focuses on structural functionalism. Meaning, that they have taken an approach that shows that a family is made up of connected interdependent parts that work together to ensure family stability (Benokraitis 15). Nevertheless, I have some questions that still remain, especially since I believe there is always room for improvement. One question would be what other variables have a deep impact? Fomby and Cherlin detail many variables such as race, first intercourse, and many more. Another question is one that can barely be researched. How does the degree of positive behavior between the parents who are splitting up affect the child? Fomby and Cherlin focus their research on very accessible and focused variables that could be given in a multiple choice question, rather than variables that would ask an individual to create their own responses. Further questions will also be stated in the ideas for future research portion.
Now, I would like to propose research to be done in the Rockford area. As stated at the beginning, I am a child of divorced parents. It is fact that I am not the only one in Rockford. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, divorce rates remain in the one-thousands each year between the years of 2000 and 2009 (Divorces). The table also indicates that the area is subject to more divorces then a majority of other counties in Illinois (Divorces). This chart adds to the relevance of Rockford being chosen to provide more research on the topic since it is subject to multiple family structural transitions. Another reason for continued research to be connected with Rockford is that, according to the STI Earth Resource System, Rockford has a wide variety of race including White, Black, Asian and Hispanic. Fomby and Cherlin provided a lot of valuable information of parental behaviors and risks of change in family structure in relation to race (Fomby and Cherlin 183). Rockford seems a fit place to continue research since it provides much relevance and a strong connection to the different variables that were investigated in Fomby and Cherlin’s research. Lastly, it is common knowledge that the more tests done, the more reliable the outcome is. This concept is another reason why Rockford is a perfect place to continue more research in. According to the Illinois Census of 2000, the Rockford area (Winnebago) is number six, in the top ten largest counties of Illinois (State). This provides a large amount of test subjects for research, which provides a more concrete conclusion.
Pursuing this further, I would like to propose new ideas for future research in Rockford. Rather than conducting different experiments that attain the same conclusions that Fomby and Cherlin found, I would like to propose the idea that we work on improving this dilemma. It is clear from the amount of research provided by Fomby and Cherlin that family instability provides a negative reaction on children. What we need to research is what supports a positive reaction on children? An idea that can be used is research on the types of positive behavior created by the parents of the children who are part of family instability. This research can be completed by sending out a survey to divorcing families asking how they have made an effort to assist their child or children in the change and their child or children’s reaction. It is also possible to make a conclusion based on a survey of the number of families who attend family counseling as a way to assist themselves and their children in the process.
Another idea for research would be to investigate the financial assistance that families who are breaking up receive. As I am not a professional on the subject of matter, I can only assume that through a divorce, money is provided to families for the children. If this is not the case, I believe we can collect data to show that it would have a positive influence on disconnecting families if there was extra money being provided for the separation and the child or children. I believe this would be beneficial because according to Suzanne Bianchi who wrote “Family Disruption and Economic Hardship: The Short-Run Picture for Children”, says that “results suggest that family income available to children drops by 37 percent immediately following loss of a father. The economic differences between children who experience family disruption and those who do not result from two factors: the economic hardship brought on by a father’s departure and the fact that economic disadvantage tends to precede family disruption” (Bianchi 37). One can assume that the drop of income available to children is also high if the mother was the one who left. So, with the fact that there is an income drop through family separations, it is logical that having economical assistance through a divorce would be beneficial. This research can be done in multiple ways. It might just be governmental research to see how to receive money for the child or children while going through a divorce, asking families who are going through a separation or have been separated might think having extra money to provide for the child could help their attitude and behavior. This, I believe, would be very helpful in Rockford since it is not a very successfully economical area based on my perspective. Thus, additional “material” benefits would assist in making the child or children happier.
One last research idea I have goes along with the previously mentioned idea. I think it is one of the most simple and straightforward point to follow. Researchers need to go directly to the source and ask kids. Having been a child myself, and since I am still young, I have not forgotten that I was smart enough to know what would have been a positive influence on my attitude and what contributions were negative on my behavior as my family became unstable. It is very likely it is the same for all other children in a certain age range. For example, children can be asked how they think extracurricular activities and additional events that they partake in help them keep their mind off their parents’ separation. It is common knowledge, that exercising releases endorphins that generally perk up your mood. In addition, based off Durkheim’s research that we have studied in class, we know that “suicide rates reflected the degree to which individuals were integrated into family, group, and community life” (Benokraitis 11). In turn, we can assume the idea that being surrounded by others, for example in extracurricular activities, heightens our mood and creates more positive behaviors.
After my ideas have been used, researched, and have gained conclusions, all of my unanswered questions and uncertainty towards the original American Sociological Review will dissipate. Incorporating these new ideas into the original research would not only make its original weaknesses disappear, but would provide much more for the paper and the world in general. It would then, not only show that there is a problem, why there is a problem, and how there is a problem, but also show how to solve the problem.
In final analysis, Fomby and Cherlin contrast the multiple transitions in family structures and the negative outcomes of children with the common causal factors such as parents’ prior behaviors and attributes. In the end, it boils down to the fact that both contribute to the effects and behavioral outcomes of the children experiencing family transitions. Fomby and Cherlin’s data can be well collected in the Rockford area based on various consensuses and statistics of race groups, economic standpoints, and most of all overall population. With new research taken place in Rockford, we can put forth more ideas of research to make up for the weaknesses of the initial research by Fomby and Cherlin. While I have provided multiple different ideas of research, the main point is to take Fomby and Cherlin’s research about the negative impact of family instability and the reasons for it, and connect it with positive behaviors to assist children in the transition. People need to begin to focus on prevention over clean-up. The best way is to find out how to create a better experience for the child then to focus on what contributes to the negative experience.
-Garth E. Beyer
Benokraitis, Nijole V. SOC. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.
Bianchi, Suzanne, Edith McArthur, and Suitland, MD. Bureau of the Census (DOC). “Family Disruption and Economic Hardship: The Short-Run Picture for Children.” Current Population Reports (1991): ERIC. EBSCO. Web. 1 Apr. 2011.
“Divorces and Annulments Occurring in Illinois, 2000-2009.” Illinois Department of Public Health Home Page. Web. 22 Mar. 2011. <http://www.idph.state.il.us/health/bdmd/divorce00_09.htm>.
Fomby, Paula, and Andrew J. Cherlin. “Family Instability and Child Well-Being.” American Sociological Review 72.2 (2007): 181-204. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 22 Mar. 2011.
“State of Illinois: Illinois Census 2000.” Illinois Gis. Web. 22 Mar. 2011. <http://illinoisgis.ito.state.il.us/census2000/censusData/2000/ildata.asp>.
“STI: ERsys – Rockford, IL (Ethnicity).” STI: ERsys – Earth Resource System. 2001. Web. 22 Mar. 2011. <http://www.ersys.com/usa/17/1765000/ethnic.htm>.