The family is one of the most important elements and with the greatest weight in the development of the human being. Our parents and siblings will be the first beings we come into contact with, and from them we will go learning different skills, habits, values and ways of seeing and acting in the world.

However, we live in a complex society which means that there are often different types of difficulties (from discordant working hours to divorce or separation, from the need for one parent to migrate or the lack of understanding of the needs of a new family member) for members of the same family to share their time productively. This is why it is often necessary to elaborate different policies and mechanisms to facilitate family integration , a concept we will talk about throughout this article.

The concept of family integration

Family integration is understood as the degree of health, harmony and balance existing in the relationships maintained within the members of a family , including and valuing the person and his/her role within the family nucleus.

Maintaining it requires efforts, activities and actions carried out that allow a strong, structured and coherent relationship and bonding of each and every one of the members of a family nucleus, in such a way that the family functions in an organized and functional way and generates well-being for each of its members. The aim is to achieve a healthy family environment that allows the development of the family as a whole, with special interest in generating harmony and relationships of trust and union among its components.

Generally, when we speak of family integration we are referring to efforts to maintain a strong and respectful bond and connection within the family in which adults can become involved in the lives of their children, allowing all family members to maintain a quality bond and act as reference figures.

A good family integration allows to promote positive values and to guarantee a quality education through dedicating and having enough time and effort to carry out joint activities and to favour the good relationship between the members of the family, as well as the involvement of the family in the life of its members. This requires that the members of the family group share quality time , as well as the existence of communication and the expression of fears, doubts, emotions, joys and values.

Another aspect that may be important is not only how the family behaves internally but how it links with the rest of society and the environment, including work, friendships or leisure activities.

Also, the relationship should be good not only with the younger members of the family, but also between the rest of the family members including the partner relationship (if any). A good interrelationship is not only good for fostering bonding between them but also has an effect on the rest of the family (especially the children). This doesn’t mean that a badly-advised couple should stay together even if they don’t want to, but it does mean that their interaction is or is respectful enough so that the rest of the environment and especially the children don’t get hurt by it or feel guilty about their bad relationship.

The relevance of favouring it

Family integration is not something that just happens. It has been demonstrated that those families in which there are dynamics that allow this linkage allow the healthy evolutionary development of all its components and especially of the children, who can develop a strong self-esteem and a series of positive values that allow coexistence with others.

It also favours communication and makes it easier to find and apply coherent limits, which are also more easily understood by children. It can also make it difficult to present antisocial values, tending towards aggression or the search for unequal power relations. Similarly, it also makes it difficult to find ways to escape from reality (such as drugs) and favours a more active search for solutions to the problems that arise .

It has also been observed that the absence of a good family integration favours concentration problems, lower productivity, a tendency to discomfort and sadness, a lower capacity to face stressful situations or a lower capacity of socialization.

What can make family integration difficult?

As we have said, maintaining family integration is very important to achieve a positive environment and climate among the members of a family and that the family develops normally. But the truth is that there are many factors that can harm this integration.

One of them, and probably the most common, is the difficulty in reconciling family and work, especially if the schedules or type of employment means that the children spend a lot of time alone or that one of the parents hardly spends any time with them. In this sense, it is advisable to look for moments to spend together and to intervene through games and diverse activities.

The existence of inequalities in the couple’s relations, the underestimation of the needs of some of the members of the family environment or the presence of problems such as criminality, addiction to substances or domestic violence are also causes of problems of family disintegration, generating, in addition, a negative model for the development of the minor .

Situations of continued unemployment, social exclusion and/or extreme poverty can also generate difficulties in maintaining such integration. Another possible difficulty of particular importance is the lack of perception of the needs of family members, both at partner and child level. This could be seen, for example in some children with special educational needs , such as minors with intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy or mental disorders.

If the presence of difficulties in maintaining a normative union and bond is detected, it may be useful to resort to some type of family therapy, mediation or family orientation in order to find solutions to the problems that may arise. In this case, family members, such as grandparents, or professional caregivers can be used, but in this sense it is necessary to develop social policies by the administration and the business sector to allow for real reconciliation.

Bibliographic references:

  • Castro, R.J., Arias, W.L., Domínguez, S., Masías, M.A., Solange, X., Canales, F. and Flores, A. (2013). Family integration and socioeconomic variables in metropolitan Arequipa, Revista de Investigación (Arequipa), 4: 35-65.
  • Dager, E.Z.; McCullough, B.C. (1976). Family Integration: A Multi-Dimensional Concept.
  • Rogers, E.M. & Sebald, H. (1962). A distinction between familsm, family integration and kinship orientation. Marriage and Family Living, 24 (1): 25-30.