The emotional and
intellectual stages you pass through from childhood to your retirement years as
a member of a family are called the family life cycle. In each stage, you face
challenges in your family life that allow you to build or gain new skills.
Gaining these skills helps you work through the changes that nearly every
family goes through.
Not everyone passes through these stages
smoothly. Situations such as severe illness, financial problems, or the death
of a loved one can have an effect on how well you pass through the stages.
Fortunately, if you miss skills in one stage, you can learn them in later
Q: My 7-year-old son likes to swallow his bubblegum. I’ve heard that
it will stay in his stomach forever. True?
A: This old wives’ tale is very popular on the playground, but it’s
"It is true that most of the components of bubblegum are not found in
nature," says Robynne Chutkan, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor
of medicine at Georgetown University. "And as such we don’t have the enzymes to
break them down. But eventually gum does get through the intestine...
Why is it important to understand the family life cycle?
Mastering the skills and milestones of each stage allows you to
successfully move from one stage of development to the next. If you don't
master the skills, you may still move on to the next phase of the cycle, but
you are more likely to have difficulty with relationships and future
transitions. Family life cycle theory suggests that successful transitioning
may also help to prevent disease and emotional or stress-related
Whether you are a parent or child, brother or sister,
bonded by blood or love, your experiences through the family life cycle will
affect who you are and who you become. The more you understand about the
challenges of each stage of the cycle, the more likely you are to successfully
What can disrupt the normal cycle?
The stress of
daily living, coping with a chronic medical condition, or other life crises can disrupt the normal life cycle. Ongoing stress or a crisis can delay the
transition to the next phase of life. Or you may move on without the skills that you need to easily adapt and transition to the next phase of life.
How can I improve my family life cycle?
assured, you can learn missed skills and improve your and your family's quality
of life at any stage. Self-examination, education, and perhaps counseling are
ways to improve yourself and your family life. These are also actions that can
help you manage other issues, too, such as going through a divorce or being a
part of a nontraditional family structure.