Generational boundaries in child development deal with two main areas. First, they cover role boundaries within the family. Second, they deal with social interactions, such as when a child might be allowed to attend school. The first concept is an essential part of developing healthy personal relationships, the second places external perceptions on a child's self-image and the way she might be perceived by the world. Both play major roles in growth and development.
When the parent/child boundaries are clearly defined, a child feels secure. The parent is in charge and provides a framework within which the child can safely explore and experience life. Moreover, when parent/child boundaries are clear, sexual behavior remains between parents and does not include the children. When these boundaries become confused, the child might dominate the framework of the household or inappropriate behavior might occur between one or more parents and their custodial children.
Child-to-child Generational Barriers
Siblings also need barriers, as well as parental supervision. Behavior that is acceptable for an infant is not acceptable for a 4-year-old. Older siblings might sometimes act as caregivers and protectors to younger siblings, which is a delicate balance between appropriate responsibility and assuming duties best left to parents. Finally, sexual behavior between siblings should be clearly off-limits. These lines sometimes can become blurred in blended households.
Age and Expected Social Roles
A child's birthday can have a major influence on perceived generational roles. For example, birthdays govern when a child will be allowed to enter kindergarten in a public school, when she will be allowed to drive, to drink alcohol legally, and what types of educational or employment opportunities might be available as she approaches adulthood. Most educators are aware that children who are older when they enter kindergarten are better able to handle school.
Social Behavior and Generational Boundaries
Every society has expectations of what a child should or should not be doing at a particular age. Because of marketing techniques focusing on younger children, clear signals about those expectations might become blurred. This blurring can lead to children dressing in clothing more appropriate for young adults or adults. This can send the wrong message to some adults. Correct behavior and dress can send an "off-limits" message.
- University of Georgia, Department of Psychology: Boundary Dissolution in the Family System
- California State Northridge: Family Systems Theory -- Concepts and Definitions
- Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069; William Strauss and Neil Howe
- Live Science: Sexualized Clothing on Kids Sends Troubling Signals
- The Smart Step-Family; Ron L. Deal
- Jupiterimages/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images