A complete family is meant by when a child lives with both parents. An incomplete family is when a child is with only one parent. In a stepfamily, the child lives with one parent and with a replacement for the other parent, e.g., with the mother and stepfather, or with the father and stepmother.
In order for a child to develop properly mentally, it needs to live with both parents. Neither father nor mother possesses all equally developed human qualities. Genders differ from each other in nature in the intensity of individual characteristics, so neither sex can in itself be a complete role model for adults. If a child is left with only one parent from an early age and does not receive a replacement for the other, there is a danger that its identification will take place unilaterally, and in addition, will remain incomplete. When a child does not have a parent of the same sex with it, it lacks a pattern of its own behavior in adulthood; when not living with a parent of the opposite sex, there is not enough opportunity to practice making natural contact with adults of the opposite sex.
The presence of both parents is therefore necessary for complete identification with adult role models and for getting to know all average human traits. This does not mean that it must be the child’s physical parents. What binds a child to its parents and encourages it to respect and love them is not the blood relationship with them, but the parental behavior of those people. A young child does not yet know that its mother and father are its parents in a physical sense, nor does it understand the essence of parenthood, and yet it appreciates them and is loyal to them if they treat it in a natural, emotionally warm way. A child does not love its parents because they are its parents, but because they treat it with love, parentally. And other people who are not related to the child in any way are capable of that, provided that they have emotionally mature personalities.
Physical parents often do not know how to be parents in a psychological sense. Then the child emotionally cannot accept them, even when it becomes clear to it how it is related to them. Moreover, the child’s knowledge that it cannot love or respect its own parents, that they do not impress it, that it must underestimate them or that it must be ashamed of them, is a heavy blow for the young person. The negative actions of such parents are received by the child with more sensitivity, with greater bitterness and stronger defiance than the mistakes of other educators. In the depths of its personality, it cannot forgive its parents for not treating it in a parental way. That is why it condemns them more severely in itself than it would do with anyone’s weaknesses and shortcomings.
The experience of daily work with children and their problems shows that incomplete families are more exposed to the danger of being damaged in their mental development. From the so-called deficient families, when the child develops with a single mother, children with various behavioral disorders and neurotic disorders are recruited more often than from complete families. Statistics on youth delinquent behavior show that there are more individuals among them who have developed in an incomplete family than there are in the average population. This proves the assumption that family deficits damage a child’s personality.
But it would be wrong to hastily conclude from these facts that the absence of one parent is in itself a harmful factor in the psychological development of the child. There are incomplete families from which healthy young people emerge and complete families with seriously emotionally damaged children. It is obvious, therefore, that in addition to the family deficit, the child’s psyche is deformed by other factors that act negatively even when the family is whole: if they are absent the lack of one parent alone can not seriously disrupt the mental development of a young person.
A deficient family usually consists of a single mother and her children. It is usually a divorced woman, widow or unmarried mother. A divorce probably left the woman disappointed and dissatisfied if she failed to remarry, or did not dare to do so. Such a mental state makes her nervous, irritable and impatient, and this is inevitably reflected in her attitude towards her children. Then the mother’s grumpiness, authoritarianism or excessive sentimentality is what harms young people much more than the absence of the father. The mother must take care of the maintenance and upbringing of her children herself, and this intensifies her dissatisfaction and intolerance towards everything and everyone, even towards her own children.
The woman also bears responsibility for the failure of her marriage. Divorce is often contributed to by her neuroticism which does not allow her to be a fully-fledged spouse. If a person is neurotic in one area of life, then they are in other areas as well. It is impossible for a woman to show her unhealthy qualities only in marriage, without manifesting them in the upbringing of her children. Those same personality components that prevented her from being a successful wife, don’t even allow her to be a good mother. That is why the breakdown of a marriage and the damage to a child’s personality should more often be sought to find the common cause rather than bring them into a mutually causal relationship.
Before the divorce of their parents, the children are usually for a long time witnesses of disagreements, quarrels and rough conflicts. The negative emotional relationship between the husband and wife seriously damages the affective life of their children, so various disorders appear in the behavior of the children. Then their mental development goes in the wrong direction much earlier from their parents’ divorce. Therefore, it is not always the incompleteness of the family that damages the child’s psyche, but it’s the factors in the life of the family that led to its disintegration which are a much more common cause.
When the mother is left single, it is recommended that she remarry as soon as possible so that the family is supplemented by a replacement for the absent father. The re-marriage of the mother is in the interest of the children because they will once again have the image of a father with whom they will be able to identify. And the mother will be calmer, happier and tidier. But that will only be the case if she enters into a new marriage with sound views and motives and if she chooses a partner with whom she will be able to build a truly happy marriage. Otherwise, it is better for a single mother not to remarry. The quarrels between the mother and the stepfather and the mother’s dissatisfaction will inflict new blows on the child’s psyche. That is why it is more useful for children to be left without a replacement for their father than to find themselves in conflict with their stepfather.
Fathers who lose their wives are more likely to remarry than mothers who are left alone. Women are by nature more adaptable, emotional and prone to parental feelings than men, making it easier to replace a parent with someone else’s child. Therefore, more benefits for the children should be expected from the father’s new marriage than from the mother’s remarriage.