The development of modern society inevitably causes the reduction of the family and a certain weakening of its internal structure. Along with the ever-increasing industrialization and the constant overflow of the rural population into the cities, a large patriarchal family could fall apart. Its young members gain independence relatively early, adopt new views on life and try to separate from the older generation as soon as possible, because they no longer agree with it. When they create their own family, it is usually limited to parents and their children. Only in a small number of cases does a grandparent live with them.
Emancipation and new social relations are causing an increasing number of young women to enter employment. They remain in their vocation even when they become mothers. This means that adult family members are mostly employed, partly because of their work, and partly because of various social activities, they spend most of the day outside the home. In the first years of life, children leave the narrow circle of the family, attend kindergarten, and later attend school, participate in extracurricular activities, are members of various children’s and youth organizations and sports clubs. Apart from the grandmother, there is no one who would be constantly at home and, like the “guardian of the home hearth” in patriarchal families, maintain the daily continuity of family life.
Childhood psychohygiene increasingly recognizes the value of the family for the proper development of a young person. That is why many look with suspicion at the stratification of the modern family and the increasing participation of all its members – both adults and children – in public life. But based on the fact that the family is a significant factor in the psychological development of the child and that the modern family is shrinking and increasingly fits into the dynamics of life of the wider community, one should not jump to conclusions about the shortcomings of the modern family in raising children. It is true that a child needs close emotional contact with its parents. But this does not mean that its parents must be constantly with the child and that they must not be separated from it. Only in the first two years does the mother need continuously to care for the child in order for the identification process to take place in a full-fledged way. Later such intimate contact with the mother is no longer necessary; moreover, it becomes harmful. In order to develop into a healthy person, the child must become more and more independent, which means separating from parental help, getting out of the narrow circle of the family, expanding the area of its experiences, and increasing the number of people it comes in contact with.
Therefore, for the healthy development of the child’s psyche, it is very useful that the educators in the family are gradually replaced by other educators already at the preschool age, i.e. that the family is not the only educational environment. It is useful for every child to attend kindergarten from the age of three, to move as much as possible among other children, even when it has a brother or sister. It is important that educators in kindergarten or in another environment in which the child finds itself are good, that they treat the child according to the principles of proper upbringing and that they treat it with positive feelings. If these conditions are met, separation from the family for a few hours during the day cannot harm even a small child, much less an older child. If being outside the family causes some disturbances in the child’s psyche, then the reason is not the occasional absence from the family, but the wrong action of the educator, either in kindergarten or in the family. When parents and other educators in the family raise a child in the wrong way, its behavior is disturbed even when the parents do not leave the child to someone else’s care for a moment. The more the child is in the company of people who are raising it wrong, the more intense the child’s mental disorders will be.
A small and non-isolated family, open to the wider community, is therefore not a harmful factor in the child’s psychological development. It is only when unhealthy emotional relationships prevail in it. But in this case, each family has a detrimental effect on the formation of a young personality. That is why it is not only important for a child to develop in a family, but it is also important for it to grow up in a healthy family.
Other educational environments, outside the family, are usually less emotionally interested in the child, so there is a greater possibility of a wrong attitude. But the relatively weaker feelings of people for other people’s children can be compensated by the greater professional knowledge of professional educators. It is the task of psychohygiene to assist such educators in working with children, just as it is its duty to train parents for mentally sound parenting. If educators in the family influence the child in a positive way, as do educators outside of it, it will be very useful for the child not to be constantly with the parents from the second or third year, but to move more and more in other environments.
It is often said that in large families, where there are many young children, children develop mentally more properly than in small families with one or at most two children. This was probably the case before, in patriarchal social and family relations where families were quite closed in on themselves and separated from the wider social community. Then the only child of preschool age moved almost exclusively in the company of adults. Even at school age, it did not have enough opportunities to be with its peers in play, entertainment and extracurricular activities. That is why it developed into an old man, lagging behind its peers in its emotional and social development. Even its brother or sister in such a situation were not enough support for full socialization.
Today the situation is different. In a modern family, the only child has enough opportunities to socialize with its peers in the housing community, in kindergarten, and school, and in various children’s organizations, so that they completely replace its brothers or sisters. And when it is with its parents, such a child can make better use of their attention, inclination, experience, and cooperation in various activities than when it has to share its parents’ little free time with its brothers.
This statement is illustrated by data on the mental disorders of school children aged 6 to 15, which is collected by survey of teachers on the behavior of their students. Processing these data showed that children of both sexes, who have no siblings, show fewer behavioral disorders and are better students than children who have siblings.
On the contrary, children from large families, where there are three or more children, show significantly more mental disorders and are worse on average than children from smaller families, with one or two children. We also received such data from our urban and rural respondents. Therefore, we can conclude that in our modern social situation, a larger number of children in the family is not a blessing for the child, but on average there is a certain danger for the psychological development of the young person.