Making Healthy Families
By Gayle Peterson, Ph.D.
Excerpt from Making
Part One: Becoming a Couple
Chapter One: Creating Your Garden
Available for purchase online at
Fortifying Your Couple's Bond: Creating
Your Family "Style"
When two people come together to create
a family, they each bring their own unconscious version of how family
members relate to one another. As children, we spend years growing up
in our own families, observing and imprinting upon the ways that our
families, as a particular group of people interact to solve problems,
to express feelings, to make decisions and raise their young. How our
parents raised us resulted in a unique family culture. We are conditioned
to imprint these same influences (both positively and negatively), onto
the next generation.
When a child is born, old family styles
of relating are awakened. The couple's relationship undergoes tremendous
stress. Marital partners who have basked in positive feelings in their
partnership can find themselves falling into negative automatic behaviors.
Where they once spoke proudly of their open and direct communication,
their equal and respectful relationship to one another, they may nevertheless
find themselves falling back on old familiar, though unpleasant methods
of interacting (blaming, withdrawing) reminiscent of what their parents
did when dealing with conflict.
Family researchers, such as Robert Beavers,
have defined family style as "the degree of centripetal and centrifugal
forces in a family". "Centripetal" is analogous to petals on a flower,
tightly formed and organized around a center. It is meant to describe
a quality of interactions that draws people closer together. "Centrifugal"
refers to the quality of centrifugal velocity, which forces us to drift
at an increasing rate, away from one another.
Healthy family styles blend characteristics
of both of these polarities at differing points on the life cycle. Young
families with small children are naturally centripetal. Parents must
be accountable to each other for coordinating childcare and their young
children require close proximity to them. But families with adolescents
grow towards some incorporation of centrifugal forces, as greater independence
is not only necessary but desirable for healthy growth. A successful
balance must be achieved to ensure family health and well-being throughout
the family life cycle. Let's take a closer look at what is meant by
these two polarities, how to recognize their extreme or "dysfunctional"
forms, and where our own childhood experience placed us on this continuum....
Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist
specializing in prenatal and family development. She
trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model
and is the author of An
Easier Childbirth, Birthing
Normally and her latest book, Making
Healthy Families. Her articles on family
relationships appear in professional journals and
she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such
as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting.
. She also serves on the
advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.
Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter.
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