Child studies through the lens of applied family social systems theory
Keywords:social systems, family systems, family activities, community activities, parenting practices, child learning, intervention
The foundations of an applied family social systems theory for explaining the multiple determinants of child well-being, learning, and development, parenting beliefs, behavior and practices, and family well-being are described. The theory is derived from tenets of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory and other social, family, and contextualized theories. The applied theory was used to develop an activity setting model of young children’s everyday learning opportunities and a family systems intervention practices model for ensuring parents and other caregivers have the time and psychological energy to provide young children with development-instigating and development-enhancing learning opportunities in the contexts of everyday family and community life. Results from three different lines of research are described which provide support for the applied systems model and the two associated intervention models. Results showed that different child characteristics, setting characteristics, parenting behavior and practices, family and social systems variables, and practitioner measures were empirically related to variations in child, parent, and family outcomes. There were also discernable pathways of influence between family systems intervention model practices, parenting practices, and child outcomes mediated by parent self-efficacy beliefs and parent well-being. The contributions of the theory, models, and research findings to child studies are described.
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