Interaction w/ other Family Members

"Chapter 18" By: Abby Timm-Haworth

Roles of Family Members

Each member of a family has certain roles, or parts one plays when interacting with others. Roles are defined within the family and the society where each child is born. Children first observe the power status of men and women in their family. In some cultural groups, the elderly have a very powerful position.

Influence of Birth Order

A child's birth order has an influence on family relationships.

Oldest Children:

The oldest child in a family may receive more attention as a baby than do children born later. The oldest child is likely to become more independent and competitive then subsequent siblings. However, parents may tend to worry more about their first child and be overprotective. If the first children are not allowed to do things on their own, they may have less self-confidence as they grow older, they may need to keep proving themselves to their parents. Also firstborns tend to be high achievers.

Middles Children:

Middle children may feel they have no status in the family. Maybe able to share something of both worlds joining in activities with an older sibling and helping with a younger sibling. Middle children may feel less pressure than a firstborn to be perfect. May receive less attention than the youngest child. Important for middle children to discover special interests and abilities.

Youngest Children:

Older siblings pave the way for youngest child. Parents feel more capable and experienced than they did when they had their first child. Youngest child in a family may be given privileges at an earlier age than older children were. The youngest child is often more sociable and self-confident than older siblings. However, they may object to being treated as the baby or having to follow in the foot-steps of older siblings.

Only Children:

Only child usually receives a great deal of attention and support from parents. Child may also be given more responsibilities than other children. This helps develop the only child's self-confident. Sometimes only children may feel pressured by parents who place all their expectations on one child. Only children may lack companionship that siblings provide. Only children can be encouraged to develop close relationships with friends. Also many only children assume leadership roles as adults.


Importance of children's relationships are with parents. These relationships are influenced by many factors, including family size and structure, birth order, personalities, communication, and parenting skills. Children in extended families are often cared for by several adult relatives. If parents work outside the home, children sometimes have strong relationships with caregivers, as well as with parents. Communicating effectively, showing respect and trust, providing love and support, and spending time together strengthen parent-child relationships.


Siblings provide early social relationships for each other. When they interact with each other they learn how to communicate, share, cooperate, and compete. The closeness of sibling relationships varies from one family to another and even between different siblings in the same family. Siblings who are close in age usually have far different relationships than siblings who are several years apart. siblings relate to one another often depends on their personalities. Wise parents will expect a certain amount of competition and jealousy among siblings. To help minimize sibling rivalry, parents should be sure that each child is treated fairly and respected for his or her own individuality. Siblings may be extremely loyal to each other. One may strongly defend the other to parents or friends, especially during the school-age years. Parents should help their children develop close friendship with each other.


Twins usually grow up doing many things together. Identical twins are alike in many ways, they are still individuals and can have different rates of development. Same goes for fraternal twins. Unlike identical twins, fraternal twins can be of different genders. Many twins are very close and enjoy a special emotional bond. Parents of twins should emphasize the uniqueness of each twin. They should avoid dressing twins alike and expecting them always to play together instead of with other children. Spending some time alone with each twin, helps strengthen each one's sense of individuality.

Other Relatives:

Some children become accustomed to having warm relationships with many relatives besides their parents and siblings. These may include grandparents, uncles and aunts, and cousins. These may help care for the children when the parents are at work or away from home. Grandparents have much to offer children, They share stories about family events and traditions. Also may have extra time to spend with their grandchildren, which helps children develop affection, understanding, and respect for older family members. The relationship between their relatives can be strengthen by communication when they are far away like, sending letters, cars, telephone calls, and videotapes.