The clash within our families ecological systems (Books Review)

Each family in their own community has a different of physical characteristics, recourses and problems that may be different with other individual members of the family. The larger exo-systems and macro-systems provide additional conceptions that are related to the historical or cultural context that translate into larger societal values. Law, politics, programs, and values determine to a large extent the environment forces that will ultimately shape communities and the quality of life for families and for individuals. Generally, there are many of the ways that forces within the family systems (the neighborhood, school) clash with both the exo-system (legal system or health care system) and the macro-system (culture).

One of the ways to implement these clashes is the study between the Hmong Lee family and the American medical community (Fadiman, 1997). It shows how the Lee family has difficulties to cope with the American health system. For instance, when Lia Lee (the daughter who was diagnoses with epilepsy) transferred to the hospital. Although, the medical staffs do not offer the translation services for the Lees family, Lia’s seizures were increasingly severe. One of her physicians said, “it was so haunting. I started to have a nightmare that was going to happen, and I would be the one on call, and I could not stop it and she was going to die right before my eyes.” (p.118) In addition, the Lee family cares also about their daughter. They arrange animal sacrifices for her, and making traditional remedies from herbs. Later, the doctors blame Lia’s family because they refused to give her the prescribe medication; they were angry because they believed that the medication has side effects. Afterwards, Lia had a massive seizure dead which left her brain dead. In general, it show us how the Hmong history, eastern culture, spiritual beliefs, and moral ethics had a different prospective an conflict among the western culture. Furthermore, the socioeconomic status for the Lees family was not able to cover all the expenses for their daughter. If they were upper-middle class, they might have a better way of treatment and they might hire interpreter to facilitate the communication so they could help their daughter. Unfortunately, the health care system does not provide the appropriate services for the Lee family. As a result, this risk factor is the most tragedy experience that shows the discrimination toward immigration families such as Hmong in United States.

Gay and lesbian parenting has been powerful predicator that shape transaction within the environment and reinforce clashed within the level of ecosystems. For instance, Families like Mine examines the experience of growing up with LGBT parents.  The author Garner meets with many young adults who grew up in LBGT parents. For instance, Garner mentioned that many children who live with LGBT parents have difficulties to adjust with their schools. When the students find out that these young adults live with LGBT parents, they rejected them and don not want to be friends. She also stated that “I began to understand for myself that if people could not accept my family, I probably did not want to be friends with them.” (p. 120) In addition, Garner uses in chapter five the term “family-defining moments” (p. 123) for those times when kinship is or is not publicly acknowledged by extended family, neighbors, company policies or laws. Straight family privilege, institutionalized homophobia, and the validation that heterosexual families automatically receive and LGBT families do not all impact the lives of children of LGBT parents.

In her eight chapter Tourists at Home:  Straight Kids in Queer Culture, deals with how children who have grown up in the gay community maintain their connection with it as straight adults, and how they become more integrated into the straight community. “I think that it is hard for both the queer community and the straight community to know what to do with us, says Orson, who is heterosexual. What are we part of? Are we part of the queer community? Are we part of the straight community? I think that maybe it is a little easier for second generation people to feel welcomed into the community.”(p. 199)

Another question we have to ask ourselves, is the church accepting children of LGPT? We interview one of the lesbian who has two sons. She mentioned that her church do not accept her to enter the church to pray. She stated that some churches accept lesbian and gay to pray but it depends in the location and how far the neighborhood accepts it. The legal system shows many of discrimination against the gay and lesbian parent. They put some regulations that are hard to adopt a child. Beside, most of them cannot adopt because the socioeconomic status. Most of gay couples have enough income to adopt a child which is easier than Lesbian. In general, this book show us how is the family system of LGBT parent have a conflict with their neighborhood, school, and church and legal system.

However, the risk factor that surround the family environment might also have a clash and not to interact with other systems. For instance, poverty, poor school, lack of adequate housing, unemployment, crime, drugs, and violence in community create a negative expectation set and living becomes a daily struggler to maintain positive sense of self. One of the studies about divorce show custodial parents have clash between their work and children responsibilities. Hatherington and Stanley-Hagan (1999) stated that new custodial parents often feel overloaded and socially isolated because they have to balance between their own needs with work and childcare responsibilities. (p.134) Although, divorce may have a negative impact in family member, it also may help other members to become strong and face the life with more harmony and the chance to have a better personal growth, and well being. For instance, despite the financial worrier that mother is facing the challenging of divorce, after her divorce, she becomes stronger and greater independence. (p.135) Furthermore, the extra-familial factors such as neighborhood, schools, peer and the church have an impact on the relation to the adjustment of children in divorced families and which is also developing a great risk for developing the emotional, behavioral and cognitive problems.

Family and Community violence is one of the risk factor the might effect of the children well-being health. The Family and Child Experience Survey reported that17 percent children (age from three to five years old) who have witnessed to violent crime and domestic violence, and 3 percent were themselves victims (Knitze & Raver, 2002, p.11)typically, families who have less education, low-income status, less efficiency of English language are also called demographic risk factors. Similarly, parental psychological risks such as depression, substance abuse, parental abuse to the child, and homelessness. (Knitze & Raver, 2002, p. 10)

Specifically, this combination of various risk factors that children exposed to by the family or the community would create serious problems on the emotional, behavioral, social, cognitive, physical and academic achievement. If we look to the systems of the ecological perspective, we found out that firstly in micro-system children’s ecosystem primarily consists of the home environment. There is much that parents can do at home, such as, helping children to achieve success in school. Secondly, the micro-system that includes all of the settings and subsystems where the child lives or spends significant amounts of time. Thirdly, the exo-system subsystem beyond the immediate environment of the child that can indirectly influence the behavior of the child.

Finally, the macro-system that consists of the larger culture or society in which the exo-system and micro-system exist. For instance, the clashes between families and schools almost inevitably arise. When we look deeper into the structure of the systems themselves, we can readily discern the sources of these clashes. Knitze & Raver (2002) shows that teacher as a primary socialization group has the interests of the individual child at heart. The school, however, has primary responsibility for groups of children to develop their social and emotional skills. Sometimes it may not be possible to reconcile the needs of the school to provide group instruction with the demands of a family that something different be done for a particular child

In my personal experience, families who live under conflict areas might effect of their functioning and their children adjustment. For instance, racism, checkpoints, curfews, racial discrimination play an impact role on the families well being and their own health. When a woman who is experiencing an extremely stressful environment. She may be constantly tense, tired, and scared toward her family members. As a result, the families could not provide the protection for their children because the have clash with the military political systems.

In conclusion, family system ways might face different clashes of interaction between the various systems. Summarizing the mainly points of these ways are: Hmong family with their eastern culture vs. western culture and the American health system, lesbian and gay parenting vs. culture, community, church, and legal system. Family’s risk factors (divorce, violence, poverty, etc.) vs. educational system, social welfare and child care system. Indeed these ways that link with the family and school environment systems may clash with other ecosystems.


Garner, A. (2004) Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell it Like it is. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc.

Fadiman, A. (1997) The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child. Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Hatherington, M., & Stanely-Hagan, M. (1999) The adjustment of children with divorced parents: A risk and resiliency perspective. J. Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 40, 129-139.

Raver, C., & Knitzer, J. (2002) Promoting the emotional well-being of children and families. NY: Colombia University National Center for Children in Poverty.


About BentRamallah

Writing is part of my resistance, Palestinian-Jordanian, working in humanitarian aid, refugee, social policy and protection. I love to cook, dance, hike, teach and practice yoga, and rescue animals.
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