Introduction

Family assessment plays a significant role in knowing how behaviors and practices within a family can impact the lives of young children. Young children are very sensitive to trivial issues that can cause great mental sufferings and trauma (Benty, 2012). The research shows that children who grow up in abusive family backgrounds and environments will not have proper mental health, compared to those who grow up in loving and caring families (Benty, 2012). Family assessment puts into perspective issues such as parentage, alcoholism and presence, or absence of one or both parents in the lives of children. Children aged five years and below are more affected than other age groups. Effective family assessment involves identification, consideration and weighing of factors that have an impact on children and youth, as well as their families (Carine, 2012).

Features of Family Assessment

Family assessment comes in handy for families when they are faced with new challenges; when there are safety concerns for a child or when there are concerns about other members of a family. Family assessment is pivotal when a decision about the behavior of a child has to be reached. For instance, what services or intervention measures will help a child to restore their confidence? Those children who had some emotional problems or trauma at some point in their lives need reassurance.

Family intervention enables handlers to come with the best intervention and support strategies for young children (Carine, 2012). Effective family assessment must be guided by principles that are family centered and culturally competent. Families should always provide the best care and support for children to boost their confidence. Family members should, therefore, focus their energy and resources in ensuring that a child has a healthy mental life. Issues such as culture and race must be respected (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2010). The fundamental features of family assessment include family dynamics and family adaptability.

Family Dynamics

Family dynamics refer to how family members relate to one another and how they interact among themselves. Every family is unique and has its own dynamics. Family dynamics may also refer to whether a family has both parents, if they are divorced, separated or is of single parentage. When both parents are present in the life of a child, a child may feel love from both parents, as compared to where only one of the parents is present (Friedman et al., 2012).

Family Adaptability

Family adaptability refers to the ability of a family to adjust its power structure, relationships and roles to various external stressors. There exist four types of family adaptability levels: structured, rigid, chaotic and flexible. Research shows that the ways families are structured, according to various levels of adaptability, have a significant effect on a child in various aspects of their lives - from school and behavior to religion (Steve, 2012).

Parenting

Also known as child rearing, parenting entails promoting and supporting the physical, social, intellectual and emotional development of a child right from infancy through adulthood. Parenting refers to all aspects of raising a child and does not necessarily denote the biological relationships (Friedman et al., 2012). Good parenting involves raising a child with discipline, understanding, love and tenderness. Different cultures view “good parenting” differently.

Communication

Communication is an important feature in comprehensive family assessment. How do parents communicate their feelings? How do they handle critical and identity issues?

Family communication refers to both verbal and non-verbal communication; it refers to the exchange of information among family members. Effective communication entails listening and paying attention to how family members feel or think. Parents need to ensure that they are good listeners and that they understand the feelings of their child (Javins, 2010). Communication plays a critical role in a family, because it helps family members to express their needs, wants and concerns. Honest and open communication creates an enabling environment that allows members of a family to express their differences, love and admiration to one another. Good communication allows family members to solve conflicts.

Impact of Family History

Family history is an important feature of family assessment. In most cases, psychologists and psycho-analysts use family history to predict behavior and mental changes in the lives of children. Children from abusive families are likely to be deviant and resort to drugs and alcohol use. Those whose parents were alcoholics or drug addicts may take longer to recover from trauma and hurt. Knowing a history of a family may help to predict the behavior and social interaction of a child.

Children who grew up in families where they felt loved and cared for will be more confident and outgoing than those who grow up in rigid and chaotic families (Javins, 2010).

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The family assessment tool chosen is the Family Assessment Questionnaire. This tool helps to assess resilience and risk factors within a family. It measures the total level of support within the family. The assessment tool also looks at environmental factors such as debt, housing, employment and family support networks; it looks at family relationships, such as violence and the type of parenting a family adopts. The evaluation tool also considers individual concerns such as anti-social and offending behavior, drugs and alcohol abuse (Stinnett, 1979). Family Pathfinder Information System comes in handy in a child’s mental health, inappropriate caring, child protection, school attendance, school exclusion, child development and school attainment; it also considers family resilience factors, such as financial stability, engagement in leisure activities and appropriate peer relationships (Quigley, 2011). The questionnaire consists of structured questions that assist an interviewer to collect as much information about a subject as possible.

Strength

A major strength of using questionnaires with structured questions is that it helps a participant to reflect upon the questions; the questions act as a guide that assists them to give as much information as possible; information that can then be used to assess their behaviors and effects of family background, history, family structures, etc. on their overall life (Stinnett, 1979). Responses can be gathered in a systematic and a standardized way, making use of questionnaires more objective than, say, interviews. It is easier and quicker to collect information; questionnaires could, however, take longer to design, analyze and apply. Information can be collected from large portions of selected groups. Return rates from questionnaires are improved by timely delivery of the questionnaires.

Weaknesses

Participants may forget significant issues, since questionnaires, just like other evaluation methods, consider events that have since passed and rely on the memory of respondents; they may forget some important information, hence limiting their validity. Questionnaires follow systematic standards, so it would be impossible to explain points that respondents may misinterpret.

Some questions are open-ended. Such questions usually generate huge amounts of data that need longer time to interpret and analyze. Some questions may be answered in a shallow manner, meaning vital information required may still be missing. Finally, respondents may be reluctant to answer the questions.

Assessing the Hawke Family

Ruth and John have been married for the last five years. They get along well due to the fact that they are able to understand each other. They fit in the description of lower middle class. Both come from relatively well to do families. They have had health issues in the past due to Ruth’s Pelvic Inflammatory disease, a fact that has seen Ruth lose previous pregnancies (Jesse, 2012). This presents a psychological torture to both Ruth and John. The fact that John has to work in a foreign country seems to strain the relationship. The good thing though is that the extended family comes in to support them. John seems to be a silent type and does not easily socialize with neighbors. This can be explained by the fact that he had a cruel father who believed in rigid and strict discipline. John might have grown up resenting this treatment.

On the other hand, Ruth’s mother is very supportive. In marriage, sometimes the extended family comes in to assist a couple through difficult moments. Ruth also seems to have been traumatized by her previous pregnancy losses. She seems less confident. Family members need to come in to help couples recover from traumatic events and experiences. Ruth has no sexual intimacy with John, a fact that could without doubt annoy him. It is important that during such moments, a couple sits down and discusses issues with honesty and openness, so as to avoid misunderstandings and resentments (Friedman et al., 2012).

It is also significant to realize that everyone is unique and reacts to stressful factors differently. People who are depressed are encouraged to visit qualified nurses and counselors, accept their conditions and associate freely with people, as opposed to “recoiling in their shells” (Friedman et al., 2012). Divorce and separation can have a negative impact on a child. They may not understand why things are happening the way they do. It is always important that parents explain issues to children and make them feel loved and cared for. Such actions minimize future mental disorders and help a child to live an acceptable life without any bitterness and guilt, like exhibited by John (Thomlison, 2010). Following the birth of a child or children, couples need to appreciate the feelings of each other. A mother may give more attention to a baby and may not be in the mood for sexual intercourse. When couples cannot solve such issues, they could seek the services of a qualified counselor.

Issues for the Family. Dealing with the Twins

John is a new father and that may present a challenge, given the new responsibility expected of him. He does not know how to take care of twins. He will probably need some time off from work, so that he plays a parenting role. He will need time to also emotionally support his wife, Ruth. He could help with the cooking, for instance. The couple would need to socialize with their new neighbors. Sometimes couples who have just had their first child or children may not know how exactly to deal with them and what to expect (Steve, 2012). It could be the challenge currently experienced by John.

The extended family needs to come in offering the emotional support a couple needs. On the other hand, Ruth may be overwhelmed by the fact that she just gave birth to twins after a previous abortion. There is still the issue of trauma. It would be important that she enlists the support of Sarah and her mother, Marion. Counseling and guidance would greatly help the couple to cope with their current situation and dilemma (Thomlison, 2010). Dealing with a new family could be stressful, especially for a couple who has not had a child before; it could be particularly stressing after previous pregnancy losses. Dealing with the issues will require understanding, patience and encouragement from family members and marriage counselors.

Divorce and Separation

John’s parents are divorced. He has not seen his father for quite some time. The good news, though, is that they would soon meet, especially due to the fact that Ruth recently gave birth to the twins. The separation left John with no male figure to look up to, a fact that perhaps explains why he is not ready to socialize with fellow surfers at the Gold Coast, where he just recently moved in with the family. Marion and Ruth’s father also divorced when she was just fourteen years. Marion suffered from a postnatal depression, perhaps due to the divorce (Snyder, 2010). Most definitely, Marion missed the presence of a father in her life. Both John and Ruth need counseling on such issues; they need to accept that fate and learn to move on.

The research shows that divorce and separation have a negative impact on the life of a child. The divorce and separation could be traumatizing and hard to deal with (Murphy, 2011). Parents need to tell their children why they are separated in a candid and clear manner. This way, they will understand. After the separation, it is advisable that both parents continue visiting and supporting children, so that they do not resent in future. A mediator comes in handy in enabling a separated couple to maintain a healthy relationship with a child or children (Murphy, 2011).

Conclusion

Child & Family Nursing is an important part of the family assessment. It provides a model for describing, understanding and assessing strengths and weaknesses, as well as family competencies. This paper has looked at a number of issues regarding family assessment and the pivotal role it plays in shaping an individual: a child, youth and adults. Family assessment finds application in every society and is used by nursing professionals and counselors in addressing the day-to-day challenges. Moreover, it provides a range of ways for engaging and communicating to families about their lives, especially the role they play in the mental and psychological growth of a child. It helps to foster unity and healthy relationships among family members by helping them identify and resolve their issues. It gives a “voice” to members of the family. Overall, family assessment promotes reflection.

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