Have your children grown into happy adults?

Child protection in Lower Saxony

The social conditions under which women and men shape their parenting and children grow up have radically changed for all families in the 20th century. The modern family is in the midst of upheaval (see Petzold 1999). The father-mother-child family, regarded as the norm, has changed and has now become history. The classic complete nuclear family is no longer the dominant family form today. Rather, diverse forms of community shape how adults and children live together. We speak of the adoptive family, one-parent family, continuation family, extended family, core family, small family, part-time partnerships, living-apart-together, multi-generation families, unmarried communities, blended families, foster families, step families, shared apartments, second families, two-core families among others

Based on the data on the structure of households in Germany (cf. Microcensus of the Federal Statistical Office 2011), the following current trends become clear:

  • Couples with children (22 percent) live in less than a quarter of households, and well over a third of all households are single-person households without children (40 percent).
  • More and more children are growing up with single parents (1996: 2.2 million, 2011: 2.7 million).
  • The number of unmarried partnerships has risen sharply in recent years (1996: 1.8 million, 2011: 2.7 million). Every eighth couple today lives together without a marriage license. In many families there are always breakdowns, new constellations with other people and changing relationships.

In the meantime, many areas of science (e.g. attachment and brain research) are concerned with the question of what framework conditions are necessary for the child to develop into a self-determined personality. The needs and desires of the children are defined more and more precisely. In addition, the ideal image of a happy family and a happy childhood is conveyed through the media. In the face of this ideal, many parents have the feeling that they are not up to the task of bringing up them.

The following applies to families: In addition to happiness and joy, a child also brings new burdens and duties with it. The educational work takes a lot of time and attention due to the development and care needs of the children. The contradiction between the needs of the family, the demands of securing a livelihood through the labor market and the desire to "have a life of your own" is difficult to balance.

One of the most striking features of social change is the loss of importance of traditional entities such as extended families and the church. Today families are often left to their own devices. You have to create your own value system without being able to orient yourself to other social institutions. For Prof. Günther Opp, this is one of the reasons for the insecurity that many parents feel when bringing up their children today: "Upbringing has become so difficult because the normative character of the educational environment in modern societies is evaporating. Everyday parenting can no longer open up leave the supportive and orientating power of the social environment through which education can become self-evident and socially traditional action. (...) Through educational action and rituals, decision-making processes must be socially constructed and justified in small steps , has become questionable. The educators must keep the reasons of their educational practice present in everyday life and open to negotiation. With the loss of the self-evident, which is derived from traditional social experiences, education has become more problematic and above all more demanding n. The consequences can be seen in a vast number of advisory literature and in parenting training programs through to parenting education offers à la Super Nanny. All of this is ultimately a reflex to parental insecurity and everyday overwhelming "(Opp 2006, p.29).

Mothers and fathers who do parenting move between two seemingly irreconcilable realities. There are, on the one hand, the needs of the child and, on the other hand, the conditions of the environment, which in many ways are not suitable for children, and in some areas even pose massive risks for the child.

Young mothers and fathers in particular need guidance and support for their upbringing work. Social networks (family, neighborhood) that helped cushion crises in earlier times have become increasingly full of holes. Families in special situations, such as unemployment, illness, the birth of the first child, separation and divorce, are left to fend for themselves. Young parents often cannot free themselves from such critical life situations on their own. What is missing across the board are needs-based facilities that have offers especially for families with infants and small children.