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Family life cycle

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Family life has its own rhythm and while this model has its roots in the idea of a nuclear family, the developmental challenges are shared in families with different structures. This model is based on that of Betty Carter & Monica Goldrick (1999) and Carr (2006)

The stages of family lifeEdit

Stage 1: Family of origin experiences

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Maintaining relationships with parents, siblings and peers
    • Completing education
    • Developing the foundations of a model of family life

Stage 2: Leaving home

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Differentiation of self from family of origin and parents and developing adult to adult relationships with parents
    • Developing intimate peer relationships.
    • Beginning work, developing work identity and financial independence.

Stage 3: Premarriage stage

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Selecting partners
    • Developing a relationship
    • Deciding to establish own home with someone.

Stage 4: Childless couple stage

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Developing a way to live together both practically and emotionally
    • Adjusting relationships with families of origin and peers to include partner

Stage 5: Family with young children

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Realigning family system to make space for children
    • Adopting and developing parenting roles
    • Realigning relationships with families of origin to include parenting and grandparenting roles
    • Facilitating children to develop peer relationships

Stage 6. Family with adolescents

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Adjusting parent-child relationships to allow adolescents more autonomy
    • Adjusting family relationships to focus on midlife relationship and career issues
    • Taking on responsibility of caring for families of origin

Stage 7: Launching children

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Resolving midlife issues
    • Negotiating adult to adult relationships with children
    • Adjusting to living as a couple again
    • Adjusting to including in-laws and grandchildren within the family circle
    • Dealing with disabilities and death in the family of origin

Stage 8: Later family life

  • During this phase the main tasks are:
    • Coping with physiological decline in self and others
    • Adjusting to children taking a more central role in family maintenance
    • Valuing the wisdom and experience of the elderly
    • Dealing with loss of spouse and peers
    • Preparation for death, life review, reminiscence and integration

See alsoEdit

References & BibliographyEdit

Key textsEdit


  • Carr, A. (2006) The Handbook of Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology. Routledge. ISBN 1583918302
  • Carter, B. & Goldrick, M. (1999). The Expanded Family Lifecycle. Individual Family and Social Perspectives (Third edition). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.


Additional materialEdit



External linksEdit

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