Bettelheim (1964) | Communal Parenting

Developmental Psychology Social Psychology





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Is a two-parent family unit actually necessary for children to develop into successful adults?

Western culture has traditionally encouraged the ‘nuclear family’ – a household unit that comprises of a mother, a father and their children.

However, increasingly children are being brought up in a single-parent household, but non-nuclear parenting is nothing new. In 1964, Bruno Bettelheim spent 7 weeks on a Kibbutz in Israel studying communal parenting.

On the Kibbutz, children were not brought up exclusively by their own biological parents, but rather they were brought up by the community. This led to some differences in relationships: Bettelheim noticed that Kibbutz children engaged in fewer 1-to-1 relationships with their peers, but had a larger social group than their American counterparts.

A follow-up in the 1990s showed that the Kibbutz children Bettelheim met in the 1960s had developed into successful adults, just as had their American peers who were raised in nuclear families.

This early observation study has paved the way to further research on non-nuclear parenting, which has helped us understand the role of a parent and what a child requires from their parental figure(s).

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