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Part 2: Family Form
A Conscious and Inclusive Family Studies; Family Vitality
Advanced Psychology Seminar

Self-Consciousness in Family Studies
Objectivity is not objective

"By denying or ignoring ourselves in the research process, we sanitize research reports."

"I engage the practice of self-conscious research to generate an inclusive family studies so that the process of creating knowledge is more sensible and relevant to the families we study."

Practicing reflexivity
"I am not arguing for simple declaration of our situatedness…rather, I ask family scholars directly to be explicit about who we are and what we assume."

A note about methods
Family scholars should learn some of the skills and sensitivities to lived experience that qualitative researchers from other disciplines have developed.
Full discussion should be made of biases that infuse the entire research process.

Expanding our science to include ourselves: A critical reflection

If our goal is to study social structures and processes related to families, we need ways to include more realistic understandings of the diversity of people’s lives in our investigations…to be more accountable to families who have been ignored or marginalized, we must be willing to risk stating what we really believe and what really motivates our work.

Integrating critical reflection and personal narrative into family studies

Example: speech proposing heterosexual marriage is the best solution to children’s problems

When a researcher informs her scholarship with critical reflection about the influence of her private experience and ideological commitments, vitality and validity infuse the work.

Example: discussion group on the race and gender link

Becoming more inclusive of diversity in family studies

Family studies originated from trends that share concern with understanding social problems and easing family tensions.

Contemporary research still relies on rationalist discourse that privileges a White male and his family.

By discouraging subjectivity and inclusivity, we deny the reality of family complexity and diversity and thereby stigmatize difference.

Becoming More Inclusive
Family scholars must recognize the relative forces of privilege and oppression operating in family life.

2. We must insist on complex, inclusive perspectives that examine the intersections of race, class, and gender without reducing them to stereotype.

3. We must be more modest in our truth claims.

4. A critical consciousness requires collective social action to create knowledge that moves people to make necessary change in how they treat others.

A family studies informed by critical consciousness is more accountable to the people we study, the students we teach, and the readers we engage.

Family Vitality (Pistole & Marson, 2005)

We propose that the traditional family is not available to nor appropriate for all people; that a variety of family structures, including the traditional family, can be normative and functional for development and that the diversity of family structures reflects the family’s vitality
TV media reflects and transmits information about the culture of family

1950s: urban/suburban 2-parent family with children organized around breadwinner/homemaker roles with adults in their only marriage

Series of cultural variations to present-day:
    Extended 3 and 4 generation families
    Foster families
    Adoptive families that may be bi-racial or multicultural
    Commuter families
    Single-parent families headed primarily by mother or father
    Gay or lesbian without or with children
    Remarried/step families
    Groups of people living together with no legal ties but with strong commitment to one another

TV Shows:
Golden girls: the aging family

Friends: the urban tribe

Frasier: intergenerational family

Seventh Heaven: non-traditional gender parental roles

All shows demonstrate normative development and vitality of the family in the wake of changing environmental.

All depict:

Family as a source of meaning, identity, and bondedness

Effective individual and family functioning across ages and phases of life

Educational/Practical Issues
Ameliorating idealization of traditional family:
Increased awareness of how tradition is reinforced
Dramatic change in historical context

Professionals and clients can respond better to family issues if they know how diverse families adapt in the 21st century.

Important to recognize that family structure does not equate automatically to processes that support development.

Embedded assumptions about traditional family can impede the processes in counseling.

Developmental Counseling Issues
Issues that emerge from the context of more recent challenges reflecting the many dimensions of current dominant culture may be normalized through discussion with counselor.

Relevant research on findings that reflect the adaptability of families to these new challenges can facilitate discussion and growth in counseling setting.

Recognizing and appreciating diverse family structures is an inclusive stance that accommodates cultural and individual differences and all of society, including children and single adults.

Research finds that diversity in family values, particularly among different cultures, is normative.

If only the traditional family is accepted as healthy, many persons will feel invisible, disenfranchised, marginalized, and ignored.

“Non-traditional” families do not characterize less commitment and weaker emotional ties, but do promote healthy and happy children.

Discussion Questions
How do you believe God intended family to be structured?

What do you believe is the best family form for children?

How does the first article challenge the way you see family life? Do you agree or disagree with the premise of the article? Why or why not?

Do you believe the recent changes in family forms, as well as the risen divorce rate to 50%, reflect a downward spiral (destruction) of families? Why or why not?

How might (or might not) the perspectives of the authors be incorporated into a Christian perspective?