The primary approach to health promotion and disease prevention is through the family. Children and adults are nurtured, provided for, and taught about health values in families. This is done by word and by example. It is in families that a person learns to make choices that promote his or her own physical and emotional health, mainly by influencing the health behaviors of its members. Therefore, “healthy behavior, including the judicious use of preventive health care services, is a significant area of family responsibility for the personal health of its members” (Edelman, 1994, p.187).
Low socioeconomic status parents have more stresses as a result of life circumstances, and stress affects the way parents carry out their functions. In a study of 585 children from the lowest socioeconomic class, it was found that low socioeconomic status was significantly correlated with the following eight factors in the child’s socialization and social context: harsh discipline, lack of maternal warmth, exposure to aggressive adult models, maternal aggressive values, family life stressors, mother’s lack of social support, peer group instability, and lack of cognitive stimulation (Dodge et al., 1994).
Our goal as health care providers should be to imporve child health and development by enhancing long term family stability and promoting the growth of a community of support among families. One way to accomplish this is to develop a program model which uses comprehensive social services and an educational/skills-building format along with a collaborative network of service providers. Parents could be offered individualized services and participate in activities that increase knowledge of child health and development, build self-esteem, and develop peer support.
The Family Systems Stressor-Strength Inventory can be used to identify stressful situations in families and the strengths families use to maintain healthy family functioning. A Family Care Plan can also be used to prioritize diagnoses, set goals, develop prevention/intervention strategies, and evaluate outcomes. This assessment/measurement instrument was developed by Karen B. Mischke, RN, NP, PhD, CFLE and Shirley M.H. Hanson, RN, NP, PhD, FAAN, CFLE, LMFT.
Dodge, K. et al. (1994). Socialization mediators or the relation between socioeconomic status and child conduct problems. Child Development, 65, 649-665.
Edelman, C. (1994). Health Promotion Throughout The Lifespan (3rd ed.), St. Louis: Mosby.
Mischke, K., Hanson, S. (1991). Pocket Guide To Family Assessment And Intervention. St. Louis: Mosby.