The main problem for Rob is having to face problems that don't usually have to be dealt with until a person is an adult. He's twelve when the story begins, at an age that usually signals the beginning of the teenage years of self-discovery and fun. However, Rob must take on the responsibilities of an adult man within a year. Rob is able to accept such responsibilities because he has such a strong, supportive family.
One of the hardest things Rob must face in the book is when he has to sacrifice his pet pig, Pinky, in order to feed his family. It is the first real test of Rob's manhood. Rob has to put his own feelings for Pinky aside, and while he and his father kill Pinky, they both cry. Rob is crying for the loss of his pet, and his father is crying because he realizes what a huge sacrifice this is for Rob, and his father wishes it didn't have to be this way. For a short time, Rob reacts much like most twelve-year-old children would react. While they're killing Pinky, Rob feels hate for his father for just a moment, but Rob lets his father know that everything is fine between them by kissing his father's hand. Now his father knows all is right between them again.
The conflicts Rob must face are both internal and external, but the internal struggles are the ones that lead to his manhood by the end of the book. We know that Rob will do the best he can as head of the family.