Family Atmosphere/Family Values
NOTE: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.).© 1964. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
These terms were introduced by Rudolf Dreikurs (1964). They have been relied upon by his students, and the students of his students, in examining and interpreting family dynamics in life-style assessment and family counseling. We (Powers and Griffith, 1987) have expanded upon Dreikurs's original observations in an effort to make explicit what we believe he implied by the way he used them.
We see the family atmosphere as set by the emotional tone of the relationship between the parents and/or other adults constituting the household of the family of origin. We describe it in a figure of speech as the climate of the household as the person remembers perceiving and experiencing it in childhood. As a term, family atmosphere employs meteorological imagery to convey a sense of the ambience in which values are planted and cultivated. For example, the atmosphere may be referred to as sunny, warm, calm, or salubrious; tense, stormy, threatening, or cold. It may also be described as transactional, in ways varying from encouraging, cooperative, and caring to denigrating or hostile. Evaluations of family atmosphere are the background for judgments made about life in early childhood when the individual's basic convictions about self, others, and the world were being formed; therefore, these valuations have significance in illuminating the context of his or her biased apperceptions and continuing expectations about what life both provides and requires.
Family values are those values shared by mother and father; that is, values which the children perceive to be important to both parents. Such values operate as imperatives: Each child will feel obliged to take up a position in regard to them. Any one of the children may, for example, support them, subvert them, ignore them, or defy them by taking a contrary position. Those values not shared by the parents, but held only by one or the other, do not have the same significance: Children are likely to experience these unshared values as features of the gender guiding lines.
There are. . .[certain] factors in the child's outer environment which affect the development of his personality. The first is the family atmosphere. In his relationship with his parents the child experiences society at large. The parents establish a definite family atmosphere; through them the child experiences the economic, racial, religious, and social influences in his environment. He absorbs the family values, mores, and conventions, and tries to fit within the pattern, or the standards, set by the parents . . . . If parents look down upon people who are different, children may . . . seek superiority in racial and social relationships. . . . Children are also quick to observe how the parents treat each other (Dreikurs, 1964, pp.18-19).
The child evaluates the family atmosphere, set by the attitudinal and operational relationship between the parents, and between the parents and the world (including the children), and concludes, "This is what I have to expect and prepare for in my dealings with others" (Powers and Griffith, 1987, p. 23).
The child considers the values that are shared by the parents, and concludes, "These are the issues of central importance, on which I must be prepared to take a stand" (Powers and Griffith, 1987, p. 23).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 36).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Dreikurs, R. (with Soltz, V.). (1964). Children: The Challenge. New York: Hawthorn.
Powers, R. L., & Griffith, J. (1987). Understanding life-style: The psycho-clarity process. Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates.