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Family Life Education

Family Life Education During Childhood

Basic family life concepts, attitudes, and skills that need to be learned during childhood include developing a sense of self, learning right from wrong, learning about family roles and responsibilities, making and keeping friends, respecting similarities and differences in individuals and families, and learning to make choices (Bredehoft 1997). Although these may be learned within the family, they also receive attention in family life programs because some families may be unable or unwilling to educate their children about these concepts or their efforts may be unsuccessful or may not happen at the right time.

In the United States, most family life education programs for children are provided in school settings (Hennon and Arcus 1993). Programs are typically organized around individual rather than family development, that is, children of the same age or developmental stage are taught the same things regardless of their particular family situations. This approach may be appropriate for many children, but it also may fail to address the important family life education needs of children in nonnormative family situations, such as being raised by a grandparent or dealing with the premature death of a parent.

In 1947, the Japanese Ministry of Education mandated education for both boys and girls to help prepare them for their family roles and responsibilities, and this education, offered through Home Economics departments, continues to be In this Japanese home economics class students learn the fundamental skill of sewing. Such education programs seek to strengthen families by providing training in roles and responsibilities. BOHEMIAN NOMAD PICTUREMAKERS/CORBIS mandated for grades five and six. The curriculum revision implemented in 2002 emphasized learning knowledge, gaining skills, increasing interest in daily family life, and improving family life as a family member (Ministry of Education 2000). Textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education typically focus on normative family needs and ideal family life, and thus may not reflect the reality of the daily lives of some students.

A review of policies and practices in Human Relations in Australian schools found that most of the human relations content at the primary school level was integrated into Health or Social Studies units (Wolcott 1987), including topics such as self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, family life, family roles in child care, different family types, male/female differences, and aspects of physical growth. Curriculum guidelines were recognized as guidelines only, with the specific content to be taught subject to local school interpretation and teacher modification.

Educational reforms in schools in Jamaica in the 1990s (Hodelin 1999) incorporated education for family betterment and the promotion of family health into several subject areas in the core curriculum for grades seven through nine, including social studies, guidance, and counseling and religious studies. This family education is now required for all students, both males and females, entering secondary schools in Jamaica.

Sexuality education is a controversial area in family life education, especially at the elementary or primary level, with many adults believing that sexuality education is a family rather than a school responsibility. A U.S. nationwide poll found that 93 percent of adults surveyed supported sexuality education for adolescents, but fewer than half approved of sexuality education in elementary school (Advocates for Youth 1999). A survey of U.S. fifth- and sixth-grade teachers found that a majority of schools were doing little to prepare students for puberty and for dealing with pressures and decisions regarding sexual activity (Landry, Singh, and Darroch 2000).

One area of sexuality education that does receive attention in elementary or primary schools is that of child sexual abuse. Concerns about sexual abuse have resulted in the development of sexual-abuse prevention programs for young children that teach concepts of personal safety such as good and bad touch, saying no, and telling someone you trust about the abuse. Some evidence indicates that sexual-abuse education increases knowledge, but acquiring knowledge per se may not prevent abuse or change behaviors (Engel, Saracino, and Bergen 1993). There is no evidence that these programs increase children's fears or damage their relationships with parents or other significant adults, but in the absence of positive sexuality education, it is of concern that children may learn only negative messages about sexuality.

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaModern Marriage & Family IssuesFamily Life Education - An Overview Of Family Life Education, Family Life Education During Childhood, Family Life Education During Adolescence