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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 McGoldrick(1999) and Carr (2006)

The stages of family life

  • 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 also

References & Bibliography

Key texts


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


Additional material



External links

  • [1.pdf chapter from "Theories of human development"]

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