The field of family therapy is packed with issues of gender bias, and until today, the practice majorly relies on the normative notions of a traditional family set up. Family therapists offer gender issues little attention and hence the emergence of micro-theories within the field. The understanding of gender issues and the mindfulness of its impacts on familial relationships is crucial for counselors in the provision of competent services. The therapist responsiveness in the evaluation of appropriateness-based gender practice is equally vital for ethical reasons. While this is the case, it is not surprising that gender issue is inverse of what feminist theorists are advocating for and subordinate woman status that family therapy has bestowed both within the society and the family. Such occurrence validates how the ideologies and perception of gender influence the practice of family therapy. The lack of a broader social context within practitioners is comparable to watching a parade through a keyhole and the reason as family therapy having little impact on other disciplines. Feminist theories offer an alternative construction of reality at a different lens calling for social change with concern on the family as the primary beneficiary and women's identity. This paper will assess gender issues within the practice of family therapy. At first, there will be a brief evaluation of how the current family has evolved and so the need for family therapy to change as well. Next will be an examination of the tension between the genders concerning family therapy.
The Construction of the Family as an Aspect of Gender Prejudice in Family Therapy
These days, the family is a hot topic of debate since the current century has changed the traditional family setting of a working father and a housewife as the primary caregiver to take another shape. The modern family is a social invention whose evolution is retraceable to early 19th century with the inception of the industrial revolution. Means of production moved from a home with workers now controlled at the factories on scales more significant than those observed earlier. For women during this period, their place changed from home to the mills where most of them would be working. The idealization of home as a haven from the harshness of the daily life of a worker was a patriarchal notion (Cowan, 2018). With men as the primary wage earners, the home was a place for leisure, and this is how it was organized. With the continuity in change, the typical family that existed in around the 1950s when family therapy was beginning was different from that of previous eras. People were not marrying younger and families were not even more significant than before. Presently, one or two child family is consistent with a deteriorating birth rate. Abortions are widespread and terminating pregnancies is most sought out by married women. Also, a significant percentage of children are raised by single parents since there are increased births from unmarried mothers. However, the most prevalent feature of the modern family is a two-wage earner with both partners holding some form of employment.
The most dramatic aspect of the modern family is the entry of women in the world of employment. About 56% of married women work away from home even though they are majorly isolated in low paying and sex-segregated jobs (Bornstein, 2013). The employment of married women has resulted in another social issue which is the lack of widespread childcare meaning that women are not yet close to being freed from their traditional roles just because they hold outside jobs. Lopsided boundaries between family and work are widely accepted to be questioned by therapists. For women, interruption of their traditional roles in the family is considered as a negative evaluation on them as employees while men consider the boundary as a permeability in the opposite direction of taking work home and sing the family time for recuperation from the stress. Such issues have resulted in the isolation of women and their domination less accessible for scrutiny. Therapists do not permit that violence from husbands on wives cause more injuries today than those encountered from muggings, car accidents and rape combined. A third of all slain women are murdered by their husbands.
The myth of motherhood where women are identified as mothers is something that is still apparent in the contemporary social setting. Father and mother have different roles where the former is to beget and the latter to raise and care for a child. The emphasis on mothering today is the result of this particular view of a child as innocent whose early influences as harmful to their lives. Such ideologies are the drives of some studies where it has since been proven that a child's earlier lives do not predominate their future. In the light of such discoveries, the blaming of mothers on the child's outcome is a two-sided belief that is made without regard to the responsibilities assigned to women in a modern family.
Aspects of Family Therapy Promoting Gender Prejudice
The traditional construction of family is what the family therapeutic approaches are based upon, heavily relying on the male customs and female complementation. The theoretical models that family therapy follows are equally surrounded by gender prejudice. Such prejudice occurs in various forms with the most common aspect identified with the exaggeration of gender differences while ignoring the differences and assuming that they are inexistent when they do. The root of prejudice in family therapy is in the theories and system practice that it works alongside.
Psychodynamic Theories Reviewed
Family therapists in understanding behavior majorly prefer the psychodynamic theories of personality. Critics' attribute these theories to be gender biased and a role player in the disadvantaging of women. While this is the case, the results of the recent surveys are rather shocking and Dickerson (2014) mentions that Freud ranking as the second most preferred theorist in family therapy is wanting. Sigmund Freud is the proponent of psychoanalysis theory, one of the most accepted theories in Family therapy. Sigmund Freud and his judgemental attitudes towards females, and favoring masculinity as a norm are the critical components of his theory. Sigmund Freud's view on women has been a subject of debate and controversy during his lifetime to this date. In his confidence, Freud believed that sexual functioning dominated women emotions and lives. In understanding the female behavior, Freud hypothesizes the penis envy, a concept of the oedipal complex where girls envy their mothers and will blame them all through their life for lack of a male organ (Jones, 2018). While he believed that this was one of his most significant discoveries, these concepts which are part of the psychoanalysis theory have largely been disputed by women. Female psychoanalysts and other feminist thinkers have condemned Freud ideologies and his notions regarded as distorted and patronizing.
Apart from Freud's approach, alpha prejudice is additionally apparent in the way other psychodynamic theories view women and overlooking their subservience. According to Sokol (2009), Erikson's developmental theory focuses on intrapsychic descriptions that are only based on male development. In rational scrutiny, the psychoanalytic theory and its version of women's psychology only reduce them to objects. This is further emphasized in the object theory that treats the mother as a harmful influence on human development. Mothers are viewed as people who should live up as per their children expectations.
Perhaps the psychodynamic view on women is best stressed in Freud's case with Dora in his involvement with two troubled families. Alpha prejudice is apparent in how women's psychology was mystified in this involvement. In this famous case, Dora is an example of a woman failing to act per the accorded sex-role stereotypes. The lass resists seduction from Mr. K and confronts Mr. K's family with K's sexual advances and her father's cheating with Mrs. K of which all the parties deny. In her resistance to comply with Freud's purpose during therapy leads her to be regarded as vengeful and disagreeable. In real sense, this is just a lady very independent and not letting gender stereotypes takes over her life. This among other examples reveals the inadequacy in Freud's understanding of women. What Dora required is just a mere affirmation of his perception. However, Freud with his psychodynamic counterparts misunderstands and employs their gender biased approach reducing Dora's situation and blaming the problems on her childhood and the relationship she had with her mother. Such frequent blaming of family problems on the mother is the gender bias that is still ingrained in family therapy today. Psychodynamic theories review the ed reveals that alpha prejudice is the widespread and unfair treatment of women.
Beta Bias in System Theories of Family Therapy
The design and nature of family systems plus its strategic and structural approaches are surrounded with a lot of bet bias. This is when therapists ignore or reduce the differences that exist between the sexes (Dallos & Draper, 2010). Until the past decade, much of human behavior research was surrounded by male subjects. As a result of this, beta bias characterized studies whose results were incorrectly generalized on women. Typically, a family is composed of a man and woman who live together under one roof but separately in their gender groups. It is such facts that cause bias in the system theories by obscuring the difference between the two genders. For instance, the laws supporting parental leave from work considers that women after birth goes some dramatic changes in their bodies that requires them to recuperate whereas this is not considered for men. Another example which is somewhat neutral is the no-fault legislation which openly benefits men leaving women in poverty. Similar patterns of beta bias are evident where practitioners fail to consider the multiple roles that women have and the social context of men and women. The practice of equal treatment in family and marital or couple therapy is not usually equitable. Inequality occurs with most therapist when they promote non-preferential and non-deferential treatment based on gender. By overlooking such differences in resources and power between the genders, therapists in their 'gender-free' approach effectively support the differences. On the other hand, in the situation of social inequality, the application of 'gender neutral' approaches will preserve the existing state of affairs.
Structural and System family therapists show beta bias when they disdain gender and view generation by age as the primary organizing value of the family. A common theme in all societies creating the significant power difference is associated with age, sex, race, and class. Similar themes occur within the familial system and where sex and age are prominent and race and class typically not so important. Nonetheless, the only theme that is certain is sex. The class can change, and even age will change. Race can equally change or perhaps disappear in a world where there is widespread intermarriage. However, there is no way that the category of sex will ever change. For this reason, by overlooking gender, system therapists maintain a fixed form of cybernetic theory, but parents are not substitutable aspects of the familial system.
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