Each child is born into a family with a unique culture. How many people live in the home, the holidays they celebrate, how they spend their free time, their beliefs about education, and numerous other factors contribute to a unique blend of values within a family that shapes how a child spends his time and how he judges the world around him.
Children often learn to pattern their own behaviors, both positively and negatively, by watching how the adults in their lives handle various situations. They learn which behaviors lead to effective outcomes and which behaviors create difficulties. These early years of influence often become powerful indicators of later adult success. Studies show that about one-third of children who are abused become adults who abuse children. Although creating a pattern of abusive behavior is almost certainly not a parent's goal, a child's foundational sense of how relationships work can be forever shaped by these early experiences.
Within families, children learn what is important and what is not. They witness their parents' attempts to organize their lives and the time they allot to various aspects of family time. Whether conflicts are resolved around a dinner table or in bed at night (or are not resolved at all), children become aware of what their family values based on their parents' attentiveness to particular issues and the emotional responses they invest into areas of both interest and conflicts.
Piaget's theory of the Cognitive Stages of Development indicates that until about age eleven, children cannot think abstractly or fully consider concepts such as justice. Around this age, children can begin to consider the idea of various possibilities and are less rooted in tangible and concrete truths. Therefore, until the formal operational stage of development, children accept the values and expectations of their families without giving much thought to other possibilities.
Therefore, children will almost always integrate the values and expectations of their family into their own core sense of identity. These are the people with whom they spend the most time, and therefore a child's family will provide a model for children as they learn to navigate a complex world.