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Assessing Family Crisis

A crisis is a period of heightened family tension and imbalance that requires quick staff identification. Head Start staff who work with families will find this information useful in understanding what brings about crises for families. Just as a crisis is an opportunity for a family, it is also an opportunity for staff to make a real difference in the life of a Head Start family.

The following is an excerpt from  Training Guides for the Head Start Learning Community: Supporting Families in Crisis .

Key Concepts Elements Contributing to a Crisis Phases of a Crisis The Timing of Head Start Intervention The Psychological Effects of Crises Ideas to Extend Practice

Key Concepts

Background Information

Much of the work of Head Start staff involves crisis prevention. However, staff cannot always predict nor prevent crises in families.

A crisis is an upset in a steady state causing a disruption or breakdown in a family's usual pattern of functioning. Families in crisis find that their usual ways of coping or problem solving do not work; as a result they can feel threatened. This fact/tip sheet, Assessing Family Crisis, prepares staff for recognizing and assessing families that are thrust into a state of crisis.

Elements Contributing to a Crisis

A family moves into a state of crisis when two or more of the four elements that contribute to a crisis interact. These elements are: 1) experiencing a stress-producing situation, 2) having difficulty coping, 3) showing a chronic inability to meet basic family responsibilities, and 4) having no apparent sources of support. In order to identify and assess a crisis situation, it is important for staff to consider four questions that address these elements: What specific situation is producing the most stress for the family? What difficulties in coping are evident in the family? Is the family having difficulty meeting its responsibilities? What supports are available to the family?

Phases of a Crisis

A crisis is usually characterized by five phases , which may occur in order, overlap, and/or intertwine. Awareness of the phases, as well as awareness of a family's responses to each phase, allows staff to examine a crisis. As described below, the phases of crisis that a family generally experiences include:

The tension and struggles created by the crisis provide the motivation for the family to learn and apply new coping strategies, and use new resources. With supportive intervention, the family discovers it can master and overcome the crisis or, at least acknowledge, accept, and adapt to the loss surrounding the crisis.

The Timing of Head Start Intervention

The opportunity a crisis provides for enhancing the coping and problem-solving skills of families depends largely on the timing of the intervention. During the initial phases of a crisis, a family may be receptive to intervention. The anxiety produced by the crisis, coupled with the realization that no ready response works, motivates the family to try new coping strategies and resources. Families who receive support and assistance to help them deal with a crisis quickly are likely to stabilize within a few weeks.

While crisis intervention can not cure all the family's stressors, it does provide the opportunity for staff to teach the family how to focus on and resolve the current crisis. After gaining the skills and resources to resolve the crisis, the family realizes it has some control over its life and the capacity to fix other stressful problems.  In contrast, families who go without support and assistance during a crisis may get caught up in a chain of events or memories of past traumas that only lead to more stress. As a result, these families may experience increasingly severe breakdowns in family functioning. Violence, neglect, or other destructive behaviors may have the potential to put families in contact with the community's court and child protective services systems.

The Psychological Effects of Crisis

People in crisis typically experience a variety of  psychological effects . It is important for the psychological effects to be anticipated and interpreted correctly. These effects are temporary and not indicators of mental illness.

Next Steps: Ideas to Extend Practice Improving Skills in Crisis Identification

Ask staff to meet with co-workers, who did not participate in the training, to share information from the training on the characteristics, dynamics, and impact of family crises. During the information-sharing process, instruct staff to present examples of family crises and to emphasize the importance of early intervention with families in crisis. Further, have staff ask co-workers whether they are aware of any Head Start families who may be in a state of crisis and, if so, to discuss and assess the indicators and make home visiting plans.

Enhancing Family Coping Strategies

Help staff to develop a mutual support group for Head Start families that are experiencing similar sources of stress, such as difficulty finding employment or child care, child behavioral problems, teenage pregnancy, neighborhood crime, budgeting money, etc. In line with the focus of the group, have staff arrange for community representatives (e.g., employment counselors, child development specialists, business leaders, law enforcement officers) to meet with the families to address their concerns. If families indicate an interest in continuing the group, have staff work with families to develop an agenda for subsequent family meetings. The agenda should include time for families to share their feelings, experiences, and strategies for coping.

Recognizing Crisis-Surviving Families

Have staff visit with Head Start families who have survived very stressful situations or crises. These may be families who are raising grandchildren; have overcome/adapted to a serious illness, injury or disability; left an abusive relationship; or who have dealt effectively with alcoholism, drug addiction, mental illness, etc. With staff, explore the options for recognizing the strengths and coping abilities of these "crisis-surviving" families, such as a certificate for their family storybook, a bouquet of flowers, or a special dessert. Help staff select and implement one of the options.

A family is thrust into a crisis when two or more elements, contributing to a state of crisis, interact. These elements include: 1) experiencing a stress-producing situation; 2) having difficulty coping; 3) showing chronic difficulty meeting basic responsibilities; and 4) having no apparent sources of support. Differences among the interacting elements make each crisis unique.

People in Crisis: Signs of Distress

Watch for these signs of distress in Head Start families. They may signal a state of crisis.

Appetite Loss 
Back Pain 
Breathing Difficulties
Clenched Jaw 
Cold Hands or Feet 
Dry Mouth 
Elevated Blood Pressure 
Excessive Perspiration 
Excessive Salivation 

Flushed Skin 
Frequent Urination 
Frequent Colds 
Grinding Teeth 
Heart Palpitations 
Hot Flashes 

Rashes, Hives 
Sleep Problems 
Stiff Neck and Shoulders 
Stomach Gas 
Tight Chest 
Weak Knees

Acting Angry 
Acting Irritable 
Acting Overwhelmed 
Acting Restless 
Acting Suspicious 
Acting Timid, Withdrawn

Being Aggressive 
Being Indecisive 
Having Minor Accidents 
Having Memory Block 
Not Being Productive

Performing Erratically 
Smoking Excessively 
Stuttering, Stammering 
Using Alcohol 
Using Drugs 

Being Frantic, Panicky 
Being Troubled, Upset 
Being Unable to Think Clearly 
Being Uneasy, Nervous, Tense 
Doubting Oneself 
Feeling Angry 
Feeling Apathetic

Feeling Dissatisfied 
Feeling Frustrated 
Feeling Helpless 
Feeling Inadequate 
Feeling Pressured 
Having Difficulty Concentrating

Having Worrisome Thoughts 
Having Mental Blocks 
Having One's Thoughts Race 
Having a Sense of Hopelessness 
Having a Sense of Loneliness 
Wanting Help

The Phases of a Crisis 1

A crisis is usually characterized by five phases, which may occur in order, overlap, and/or intertwine. Awareness of the phases and of the responses typical to each phase leads to correct identification and assessment of a family in crisis. As described below, the phases are:

The Family Crisis is Triggered

A family is thrust into a crisis when two or more elements contributing to a state of crisis interact. When the crisis is triggered, it causes a change in the family's circumstances and an increase in stress and anxiety.

Seeing the Crisis as Threatening

Family members see the crisis as a threat to the family's goals, security, or emotional ties. Some crises are universally threatening or stressful: the death of close family or friends, divorce, serious illness, personal injury, and environmental disasters.

Staging a Disorganized Response

The crisis may spur a rush of memories about traumatic or highly stressful times in the family's past. The family becomes increasingly disorganized as the strategies and resources used in the past to solve family problems fail. Family members experience increasing feelings of vulnerability, helplessness, anxiety, and confusion. As a result, feelings of losing control and being unable to meet family responsibilities may become intensified and disabling to family members.

Searching for a Solution

In an attempt to deal with mounting tension, the family begins to involve friends, relatives, neighbors, and others in the crisis. Typically, each family member looks for someone to validate his/her own views about the crisis and its resolution. Conflicting opinions and advice can add to the family's confusion and instability. When the family is unable to find appropriate solutions to the crisis, a chain of events is set off, creating yet another crisis for the family. Rapid intervention is necessary to stop the chain of events from causing a complete breakdown in family functioning and a perpetual state of crisis.

Adapting New Coping Strategies

When support for dealing with the crisis is available from a non-judgmental and skillful "helper," this phase represents a turning point for the better for the family in crisis. Family members are likely to welcome the sense of direction, security, and protection the helper brings to their situation. The tension and struggles created by the crisis provide the motivation for the family to learn and apply new coping strategies, and to use new resources. With supportive intervention, the family discovers it can master and overcome the crisis or, at least acknowledge, accept, and adapt to the real or tragic loss surrounding the crisis.

1 Adapted from C. Gentry, Crisis Intervention in Child Abuse and Neglect (Washington, D.C.; U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 1994).

Possible Psychological Effects of Crises

People in crisis typically experience a variety of psychological effects. It is important for the psychological effects to be anticipated and interpreted correctly; they are temporary and not indicators of mental illness. As described below, the psychological effects fall into six broad categories.

Difficulty Thinking Clearly.  People in crisis may quickly skip from one idea to another in conversation, making communication with them confusing and difficult to follow. They may have trouble relating ideas, events, and activities to each other in a logical way. They may overlook or forget important details in their explanation of events. Fears and wishes may be confused with reality. Some people in crisis cling to responses or behaviors they used in the past to solve problems; they seem unable to move on to new ideas, actions, or behaviors necessary to resolve the current situation.

Dwelling on Meaningless Activities.  In an attempt to combat anxiety, people in crisis may become overly involved in activities that are not productive. For example, they may spend all day watching TV, sleeping, or just sitting. They are likely to need considerable help in focusing on activities to bring the crisis to an end.

Expressing Hostility or Numbness.  The feelings of loss of control and vulnerability, experienced by most people in crisis, may be expressed through hostile words and actions directed toward anyone who intervenes in the situation. Others may withdraw or experience depression; they seem not to care about the crisis or its outcome.

Impulsiveness.  Although some people become immobilized in crisis situations, there are others who react impulsively without any regard to the consequences of their behavior. Impulsive behaviors, such as verbally striking out at a child or a spouse, can trigger additional crises. In these instances, a complex situation becomes even more complex and difficult to resolve.

Dependence.  It is natural for people in crisis to feel dependent upon a professional who offers support and help. The professional represents a source of power and authority: someone who knows what to do and how to get things done and someone who is the answer to all the family's difficulties. Such views of the professional can have a stabilizing impact on a family at the height of a crisis. After a brief period of dependency, most families are able to let go and act independently. For some, however, dependency may linger and become extreme, making them quite vulnerable to negative influences. They may be unable to decide between what is beneficial for them and what could be harmful, or to decide to whom they should or should not listen.

Feeling Incompetent.  A crisis presents a threat to one's sense of personal competency and self-worth. To counter low self-esteem, people in crisis may assume a facade of adequacy or arrogance. They may claim no help is needed or withdraw from offers of help. It is important to remember that families in crisis are probably very frightened by their feelings of incompetency, rather than unmotivated or resistant.

Resource Type: Article

Audience: Family Service Workers

Last Updated: March 11, 2022

Family Crisis Issues and Solving Them Essay (Critical Writing)

Introduction, situation 1, situation 2, situation 3.

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The family in the context of family systems theory represents a complex institution with many moving processes. Despite the fact that the system consists of separate parts, it functions as a whole. Another feature of a family system is the mutual influence of members on each other and the system in its entirety. The family is not comprised of the usual linear causal relationships. Instead, it is the result of continuing patterns of communication, and crises emerge when there are issues with these patterns. Conflicts and problems may result in instabilities but may also be converted into opportunities (Collins, Jordan, & Coleman, 2013). However, unpredictable situations may cause more significant damage than simple pattern issues. This paper covers such issues and presents potential ways of solving them.

A young family is waiting for their first child, and as the day of delivery approaches, the wife is forced to leave her job and stay home. The husband becomes the only person to work and feed the family. The crisis occurs after childbirth – the husband loses his job, and the family is now facing financial challenges. The wife cannot yet return to her previous workplace, and the husband is having issues finding a new job. In such stressful circumstances, it is hard to predict what the eventual impact of the crisis will be. The family might break apart because the husband, pressured by his inability to provide for his family, may develop unfavorable habits such as alcoholism. To successfully pass these difficulties, the family should seek assistance from the external environment. For instance, the government might help with employment.

Emergencies also pose a threat to family stability and may lead to severe consequences. For instance, a family might lose its home because of a tornado and be left with no place to stay. Such situations may provide not only instability but also a threat to the family’s existence. The family should seek help from a social worker because they are generally knowledgeable of various welfare and social support programs that might provide necessary resources to cope with the challenges. For instance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (2019) can help with temporary housing, family meals, and filing insurance claims. The family might not know what steps it should take. Therefore the availability of a family social worker is vital.

The death of a family member is also an unpredictable source of stress and crisis within the family. The severity of the consequences depends on how the family members react to this event. If they choose to be together and support each other, they will be able to go through the hardships successfully. However, it is very challenging for the members to manage themselves adequately in the face of such a distressing event. Potential adverse consequences include divorce, alcoholism, drug abuse, and others. Interventions provided by a family social worker may help establish necessary communication between the family members to remedy the situation and achieve stability.

Unpredictable events may have a significant impact on a family’s stability. This paper covered some of the possible scenarios, but it is not possible to claim that every crisis can be solved. However, seeking assistance from others may mitigate some of the negative consequences and provide a foundation for stability. The role of the family social worker in this context is crucial. Competence to deal with the problems caused by adverse patterns of communication and interaction and unpredictable crises makes social workers a critical figure in family prosperity.

Collins, D., Jordan, C., & Coleman, H. (2013). An introduction to family social work (4th Ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2019). About the agency . Web.

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IvyPanda . "Family Crisis Issues and Solving Them." July 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-crisis-issues-and-solving-them/.

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Research Paper

Family in Crisis, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 576

This Essay was written by one of our professional writers.

Family in Crisis, Essay Example

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Juanita is facing numerous physical environmental, psychological, biological, sociocultural, behavioural and health system factors that are influencing her situation and driving her to the conclusion that she does not need to live anymore.

Her physical environment, the rural setting within which she is currently residing, has hindered her ability to find work even without any marketable skills. If the setting was urban, she would probably find it much easier to find employment at minimum wage without any marketable skills.

She is psychologically under strain with all the dependents that live under her. She is taking care of many people without any job and any marketable skills. Notably, she is taking care of her 72-year old mother who is diabetic and has hypertension (Rusell, 2002). This creates for an environment that is full of strain as the mother would require a lot of her attention, not mentioning a special diet. The 13 year old daughter would only seem to cause further strain with common teenage delinquent behaviour. The 18-year-old son is an adult and as such may be expected to help in the family finances. However, there is no indication of this. The 9-year-old step daughter would also need constant care and her undivided attention. All these factors work to psychologically strain her.

The one socio-cultural problem factor that works against Juanita is the fact that is a single-mother. Since there is no mention of her husband or boyfriend, and owing to the fact that she is African-American, it can only be safe to presume that the husband or boyfriend abandoned her, neglecting his fatherly duties. One-parent families are common in the African-American culture and this has worked against Juanita as she is left to cater for all the aforementioned family needs on her own. (Barker, 2007)

The health system factors have worked against Juanita in the form of the lack of health insurance cover for any of her family members. This can only be attributed to the fact that health insurance is an expensive asset to acquire owing to the fact that she has no job and/or no marketable skills.

Her mother’s age is a biological factor that cannot be ignored. She is 72 years old is currently experiencing problems with hypertension (high blood pressure) and diabetes. These are common with a failing health of an aging individual.

This is indeed a crisis situation. This is a socio-cultural and psychological family crisis. This is because the socio-cultural facets of the community greatly undermine the functionality of the family and the wellbeing of Juanita, causing great psychological pressure on her and resulting in her developing suicidal thoughts and her contemplation of there being no need for her to live.

The best interventions for tis family would be for the 72 year old mother to be placed on an affordable diet that is well within the reach of the family’s finances.

Another intervention would be to direct Juanita to a psychiatrist to help her with her suicidal thoughts.

In the case where many families in the area are experiencing similar problems, the most advisable nursing intervention technique would be to seek out any social or economic facilities and create an awareness program to aid the community in understanding the biological, psychological, physical environmental, sociocultural, behavioural, and health system factors are influencing the current condition and situation of the community. (Niven, 2006)

Barker, S. (2007). Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell Pub.

Niven, N. (2006). The Psychology of Nursing Care. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rusell, G. (2002). Essential psychology for nurses and other health professionals. London: Routledge.

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Family in Health Crisis

Introduction, key factors, crisis situation and interventions.

A family in crisis stands at the turning point when its members face health problems and lack the instruments to cope with stress. In the given family, Juanita Brown is a single mother with three children and her mother who needs ongoing care. The family has no health insurance and lives only for the support that is provided by the government. This paper aims to explore the factors that impact the family and suggest relevant nursing interventions.

Mrs. Brown’s family lives in a rural area that is often characterized by poor access to healthcare services and transportation challenges. The physical environment factor also includes the fact that the opportunity to receive a good job is restricted as the labor market seems to be underdeveloped. Among the biological factors that impact this family, there is a higher risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, and breast cancer due to genetic heredity.

In addition, the stress and depression of Juanita are the key psychological factors that show her suicidal thoughts since she cannot handle the situation. The non-availability of health coverage places this family in a vulnerable position, limiting their access to healthcare services (Barrett, Terry, Lê, & Hoang, 2016). Considering that Mrs. Brown’s mother has a range of diseases, this complicates the case. Although it was not mentioned directly, one may suggest that the family faces stigma from society. The absence of marketable skills, siblings, and a husband worsens the financial and psychological problems.

They discussed situation is a family crisis that can be identified as the loss of job/livelihood and a clash of personality types. It is clear that the family lost a husband, and currently, it lacks money for satisfying the basic needs. At the same time, Mrs. Brown notes that she does not want to live anymore, which indicates that she does not see opportunities and personal strength for improving the situation. With this family, the community nurse should try to found alternative jobs for Mrs. Brown, which can be temporary.

Another option is to suggest obtaining training to develop new skills that would be demanded on the local market (Kaakinen, Coehlo, Steele, & Robinson, 2018). The 18-year-old son can also take the responsibility and find a part-time job to support the family.

The crisis plan should be created by the community nurse and Mrs. Brown to identify the specific actions to be taken. First, there is an urgent need for her to receive psychological assistance, which can be achieved by using suicide hotline telephone numbers. Second, the family values and goals should be reviewed to determine short-term objectives and long-term perspectives (Kaakinen et al., 2018). All family members should understand their critical situation and accommodate their way of life to act in cooperation.

Third, the nurse can advocate for assistance from the local authorities to organize training for people who cannot find a job and lack relevant skills. The last suggestion refers to the larger problem when many families have to live in poverty. In this case, the nurse should act as an advocate and interact with other sectors and agencies to attract public attention. A special health coverage program can be designed to ensure that such families can meet at least basic health needs without being charged and increasing their debts.

To conclude, Mrs. Brown’s family faces the financial and personality clash crisis since it lives for governmental aid, while the only breadwinner thinks about suicide. The community nurse should help to facilitate the psychological tension and finding alternative employment options. At a larger scale, it is important to advocate for new health coverage programs and organize training courses if there are many families in the area that have similar challenges.

Barrett, A., Terry, D. R., Lê, Q., & Hoang, H. (2016). Factors influencing community nursing roles and health service provision in rural areas: A review of literature. Contemporary Nurse , 52 (1), 119-135.

Kaakinen, J. R., Coehlo, D. P., Steele, R., & Robinson, M. (2018). Family health care nursing: Theory, practice, and research (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis.

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Related Topics

Earlham Sociology and Politics Pages

Resources for gce advanced level, scottish higher and access to higher education courses. i hope also that some of the more detailed documents may be useful for beginning undergraduates., essay: is the family in crisis, russell haggar.

Please note that on 12/12/09 I have added an appendix to this document which provides a little information on social action theory, structuration theory, late modernity and postmodernism as they relate to the analysis of family forms.

For BBC coverage of UK and USA research on lone parent families –  Click Here

For BBC Radio 4 Analysis coverage of this research –  Click Here

For a recent article on aspects of domestic violence –  Click Here

  For a recent article on divorce.  Added January 2018  –  Click Here

For very useful interesting survey information on attitudes to gender roles (once you reach the Birkbeck College site scroll down to the Initial Results section and click on the link to the Fawcett Society) –  Click Here

For recent BBC coverage of some of the difficult issues affecting a limited number of “troubled families”.  Added 15/12/2011

Click Here       Click Here

For BBC coverage of Coalition tensions over family policy.  Added 18/12/2011  –  Click Here

For the Centre for Social Justice –  Click Here

For two reports which exemplify the perspectives on families of the CSJ - November 2020

Click Here       Click Here      

For an article which is critical of the Centre for Social Justice approach to research including its research on family issues.  NEW LINK  added May 2014 –  Click Here

For a critical assessment of the Troubled Families Programme –  Click Here

For a more detailed assessment of the Programme.  NEW LINKS added November 2015

For Independent coverage of Joseph Rowntree Foundation research indicating that single earner, “traditional” families are especially at risk of experiencing poverty –  Click Here

For articles on Family Life from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation  [JRF]  – Click Here

For the full JRF/IPPR Report.  Very important new links added November 2013  – Click Here

For discussion of whether fatherlessness causes crime.  New Link added November 2013 –  Click Here

For Guardian article by Polly Toynbee on the decline in the rate of teenage pregnancy  New Link added December 2013  –  Click Here


Introduction: The Nuclear Family and Family Diversity

The sociological analysis of “the” family from the 1950s to the 1970s tended to focus on the nuclear family but, as we shall see, in order to assess whether “the” family is in crisis it necessary first to assess whether the nuclear family itself is a cause for celebration or a cause for concern and then to assess whether  the growth of family diversity from the 1970s onwards signals crisis or progress in the nature of family life.

 Parsons, Fletcher, Young and Willmott and the Nuclear Family

Functionalist sociologists [such as, especially, Talcott Parsons] of the 1950s and 1960s focussed their attention on the nuclear family based upon the married heterosexual couple with their own biological children .They argued that adult role allocation within the nuclear family reflected the natural expressive and instrumental qualities of females and males respectively ; that the nuclear family was especially suited to the needs of industrial societies for high rates of social and geographical mobility and that although structural differentiation was causing the nuclear family to lose some of its functions it did continue to  fulfil the vital functions of the socialisation of the young and the stabilisation of adult personalities. Another functionalist sociologist, Ronald Fletcher, agreed with  Parsons’ claim that nuclear families were functioning efficiently but denied that the nuclear family had lost some of its functions due to structural differentiation such that, for example, even if children now received much of their education formally in schools, parents were now taking more rather than less interest in their children’s education.

Furthermore by the 1970s the sociologists Young and Willmott argued that, life in the nuclear family was becoming increasingly companionate, symmetrical and happy by comparison with the conditions of the asymmetrical and patriarchal family of the 19th and early 20th Centuries all of which suggested that far from being in crisis the nuclear family was “functional” both for its members and for societies as whole.

Leach, Laing, Cooper and the Nuclear Family

However this optimistic, evolutionary or “march of progress” view of the nuclear family was criticised even when it was first originated and these criticisms have retained their force in recent years. Thus it was argued by anthropologists such as Edmund Leach and radical psychiatrists R.D. Laing and David Cooper that life in the nuclear family might be far from harmonious.

The studies of Leach, Laing and Cooper have, however, been criticised for several reasons which means that the conclusions of these studies should not be assumed to discredit the functionalist theories totally. Thus critics have argued that none of these theorists have conducted detailed fieldwork in industrial societies and Laing’s and Cooper’s research is based only on families where one member has been defined as schizophrenic. They do not attempt to relate the family to other aspects of the social structure such that for example there is no consideration of the relationship between class and family life . Also Laing may have underestimated the extent to which liberal attitudes also emerge in the family and illiberal attitudes derive from sources other than the family.

Feminism, Marxism and the Nuclear Family

Further criticisms of the organisation of nuclear families were raised by Feminists and Marxists. There are important divisions within Feminism , most notably as between Liberal, Radical and Marxist Feminism but all Feminists are critical in various respects of Parsons’, Fletcher’s and Young and Willmott’s theories of the nuclear family . Thus Feminists argue in general that:

Although Liberal Feminists argue that many female disadvantages can be alleviated by sensitive education and gradual economic and social reform, this is not a view that would be accepted by Radical and Marxist feminists. Radical Feminists argue that societies in general and families in particular are deeply patriarchal, that patriarchy is based sometimes on male physical violence and that women’s interests are best served by the rejection of family life and ,indeed, rejection of relationships with men although some radical feminists argue that motherhood can enable women to express sensitive, emotional qualities which men simply do not possess.

Marxist Feminists have accepted the general Marxist analysis of the family and then aimed to show how families support the continuation of the capitalist system via the exploitation of women. Marxist Feminists make the following key points about family life.

Thus, for Marxist feminists the socialisation process, the management of dissatisfaction, the allocation of roles between males and females, the hidden services provided by the family for the capitalist economy all contribute to the maintenance of an unjust capitalist system and to particular disadvantages for women within that system.

In summary whereas Parsons and Fletcher argue that nuclear families fulfil functions which contribute to the individual happiness of their members and to the stability of advanced industrial societies which are essentially democratic, fair and meritocratic , more critical Feminist and Marxist analysts argue that nuclear families may operate to the disadvantage especially of their female members and help to sustain societies based upon the inequities of patriarchy and/or capitalism. From these critical perspectives nuclear families could be said to be in a state of crisis which reflects the wider crises of patriarchal/capitalist societies.

The New Right: Family Diversity and Family Crisis?

The  last 50 or so years have witnessed the growth of family diversity in the forms of the growth of cohabiting couples with or without children, reconstituted families arising from divorce, separation  or death of a partner, single lone parent families and single sex couples with or without children, while an increasing proportion of people choose to live singly. Given theses patterns  many sociologists have argued that it is more appropriate to analyse this variety of family forms  rather than “the” family and the current official definition of a “family” does encompass a wide variety of family forms. It is New Right theorists who have been especially critical of this growth of family diversity.

It has been argued, [most notably by the political theorist Andrew Gamble] that the ideology of the New Right contains two distinct elements: a market liberal element which supports the provision of goods and services by the private sector of the economy rather than by the state and a neo-Conservative element which focuses on the importance of traditional norms, values and institutions as bastions of necessary social stability.

The neo-conservatives’ general support for traditional values and institutions leads them to see the nuclear family as potentially an important source of social stability providing emotional security and effective socialisation of the young much as in the functionalist theories of Talcott Parsons. Many neo-conservatives would support also the traditional gender division of labour based upon Parsons’ distinction between the “instrumental male” and the “expressive female” whereby men are more suited to the world of work and females more suited to child care and other emotional tasks. However neo-conservatives would also argue that many nuclear families do not currently function as effectively as Parsons’ theory implies.

Also, of course, neo-conservatives are highly critical of the growth of what they describe as the liberal permissiveness of the 1960s and its influence on personal relationships leading to increased family diversity. According to neo-conservatives these trends have undermined traditional moral values [which, for neo-conservatives are often seen as deriving from Christian religious ethics] and resulted in the creation of unsuitable family forms which cannot fulfil the functions of “the family” which are necessary for the stability of society more generally.

Thus pre- marital heterosexual relationships, the legalisation of homosexuality, the growth of lone single parenthood, the increased rate of cohabitation rather than marriage, the growth of separation and divorce and the official recognition of single sex civil partnerships all signal for neo-conservatives a crisis of traditional values and a crisis of the nuclear family which threaten the foundations of society itself. Indiscipline in schools, educational underachievement, youth unemployment, social security fraud, vandalism, anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol abuse and more serious criminal behaviour all derive at least to some extent from the decline of the traditional nuclear family. The solution, according to the neo-conservative New Right is “the remoralisation of society”: the reassertion of traditional moral values which will increase support for the traditional nuclear family based upon life-long marriage.

The American political scientist Charles Murray’s theory of the underclass does contain elements of neo-conservatism but, as we shall see, it is influenced also by neo-liberal aspects of New Right ideology. Murray  has  claimed in relation to the USA that an underclass of perhaps 5% of the USA population exists whose members are disproportionately Black or Hispanic and who prefer to rely on welfare benefits rather than to seek employment and are also disproportionately likely to be involved in [often drug related] crime and that similar trends are increasingly evident in the UK although in the case of the UK are much greater proportion of Underclass members are likely to be white.

According to Murray excessive welfare benefits encourage some young women to opt for lone single parenthood and these women are seen as responsible for socialising their children into a culture of dependency on welfare benefits  while the absence of fathers is seen as denying the children the example of a regularly employed male role model who might also be able to “discipline” growing teenage sons more effectively than can lone single mothers. Thus, in summary excessive welfare benefits result in the growth of lone singe parenthood and the absence of fathers from the household and these are the factors which lead to the intergenerational transmission of the culture of dependency in the USA and according to Murray all of these trends are increasingly evident in the UK.

Murray’s theory might be seen as in part influenced by neo-conservatism in its claims that the traditional heterosexual nuclear family with its positive male role model is best able to socialise children in preparation for their adult responsibilities but it also contains important elements of neo-liberalism in its conclusions about relationships between the family and the state. Thus Murray accepts much of the classical and neo-liberal analysis of the state in general and of the welfare state in particular as indicated in his argument above that it is over-generous welfare benefits for single parents which itself encourages the growth of single parenthood which in turn results in the intergenerational transmission of a culture of dependency leading to the perpetuation of poverty

Poverty in this view can be alleviated only by reducing the generosity of welfare state benefits and this view is linked to the neo-liberal view of the state in general which suggests that the overall scope of the state should be reduced so that more resources are made available for the dynamic private capitalist sector of the economy and rates of taxation can be reduced resulting in increased financial incentives, greater economic efficiency and rising living standards for all as the benefits of economic growth “trickle down” even to the poorest members of society. We see therefore that Murray’s theory contains elements of neo-conservatism but that it is also based, to a considerable extent  upon a broadly neo-liberal analysis of relationships between the state and society.

Murray’s theory does suggest that the growth of lone single parenthood results in crisis within lone single parent families but several sociologists have been critical of Murray on the grounds that he has neglected more structural explanations of poverty, that he has neglected research indicating that the culture of the poor is not significantly different from the culture of society in general. that he has neglected the fact that many people move in and out of poverty such that no permanent underclass exists and that the scaling down of welfare benefits as proposed by Murray would surely worsen the situation for the poor in the short term and in the long term despite Murray’s belief in “trickle down economics.”

Alternative Views of Family Diversity

Given their criticisms of the nuclear family it is unsurprising that feminists take a different view  of family diversity. Thus they would argue  that relationships based on cohabitation may be just as secure as those based on marriage and also that cohabitation gives couples the chance to assess compatibility before entering into a more “permanent” marriage. They would argue also that as increasing number of lone single mothers choose not to marry their child’s father [nor to cohabit with them] this may well be preferable to the formerly common entry into an unwanted and potentially unhappy marriage in order to avoid the once widespread stigmatisation as “unmarried mothers.”  Feminists believe also that, given the potential for conflict within the nuclear family, it was entirely to be expected that the liberalisation of the divorce laws combined with improved female employment opportunities would result  in increases in divorce but that divorce is preferable for both parents and children to the continuation of an unhappy marriage. Furthermore all liberals would support the rights and freedoms of individuals to enter into same sex relationships and to have their relationships recognised officially as civil partnerships

On these arguments the growth of family diversity  is seen as deriving from rational responses  to the potential and actual limitations of life within the traditional nuclear family although it would be recognised also that many lone single mothers and divorced mothers are especially likely to face financial hardship, that cohabiting relationships are even more likely to break up than are marriages and that divorced fathers may often have legitimate grievances resulting from limited access to their children so that the growth of family diversity does generate important problems for those concerned and may also impose increased financial costs on the taxpayer if those in need are to be given adequate financial help.


Functionalists argued in the 1950s and 1960s that the nuclear family  was especially suited to meet the needs of its family members and of industrial societies as a whole  while in the 1970s Young and Willmott argued that as nuclear family life became increasingly symmetrical married couples’ relationships would become increasingly egalitarian, companionate and harmonious. New Right theorists in turn accept the Functionalist argument that the nuclear family was vital to the stability of society as a whole but ague that increasing numbers of nuclear families does not function effectively and also that the growth of family diversity is in several respects a threat to social stability .

Marxists and Feminists, in rejecting  Functionalist and New Right theories, are much more critical of the nuclear family arguing that it often leads to the exploitation of women within the family and that it helps to perpetuate societies  which are economically unjust and patriarchal. According to Marxists and Feminists the kind of social stability that Functionalists and New Right theorists support  entrenches economic inequality and patriarchy which is exactly the kind of social stability which Marxists and Feminists wish to get rid of although Liberal Feminists do believe that  better education and gradual social and political reform can end female oppression within the family and in society more generally.

Marxists and Feminists would argue that the nuclear family is itself a site of crisis and that the growth of family diversity has arisen out of individuals’ rejection of the limitations of life within the nuclear family. However , lone single parent hood, divorce, the break- up cohabiting relationships may impose severe financial and social difficulties on many women and divorced fathers’ may well have legitimate concerns over access to their children  which means that family diversity also may result in personal crises of various kinds.

It may well be that Functionalists and New Right theorists overstate the extent to which the nuclear family as it currently operates can satisfy the needs and aspirations of both males and females and that Feminist and Marxist analyses of the actual operation of nuclear families are in may cases justified. However there is also evidence that attitudes, values and behaviour within the nuclear family are changing , not least as a result of acceptance of some  Feminist-based arguments so that many marriages , cohabiting relationships and civil partnerships may increasingly be more egalitarian, companionate and harmonious. Nevertheless the high rate of divorce, the even higher rate of break- up of cohabiting relationships, the widespread existence of “empty shell marriages” all suggest that many nuclear families are in difficulties while the growth of family diversity ,even if it may provide alternatives preferable to life in an unhappy nuclear family, may also generate problems of its own.

Appendix: Social Action Theory, Structuration, Late Modernity and Postmodernism.

The above link takes you to a very useful podcast by the Sociology Guy. You should be able to incorporate some of this information into you analysis of “Family Crisis”

Further insights into the analysis of family diversity can be taken from other approaches to Sociology: that is : from social action theory, from structuration theory and the analysis of late modernity and from postmodernism. I shall consider here only the implications of these approaches for the analysis of family diversity rather than the highly technical theoretical issues related to the approaches in general.

Essentially whereas structural sociological perspectives imply that individuals’ behaviour is influenced heavily by powerful processes of socialisation  which limit their freedom of manouevre social action theories suggest that individuals have much greater individual freedom to determine their own behaviour and in so doing to change gradually the institutions and structures through which they live. This suggests in relation to the family that individuals do have some powers to modify personal relationships within the nuclear family and also to reject nuclear family life if it does not fulfil their expectations. In this view, therefore , family diversity suggests, at least in some cases, not the onset of a crisis of “the family” but the increasing freedom of individuals to live their lives as they see fit.

Similar arguments are made in structuration theories and analyses of late modernity. Structuration theorists seek to combine elements of structural and social action theories and conclude that individuals do indeed have some freedom of manouevre but that they are also constrained to some extent by the institutions and structures of their society. Nevertheless according to theorists such as Anthony Giddens in conditions of so-called late modernity individuals are increasingly self -reflexive: that is: they can evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their personal relationships  and in many cases they have the freedom to end them if they are deemed unsatisfactory so that once again family diversity derives to a considerable extent from increasing individual freedom and does not reflect the onset of an overall crisis of “the family”. Individuals nowadays may be able to develop more fully because of the increased freedom to end unsatisfactory relationships although this does not mean that the ending of relationships will not sometimes create difficulties as well as opportunities for those concerned.

Postmodernists reject all modernist sociological theories as “meta-narratives” which reflect the values and prejudices of the theorists who have developed them rather than the objective discovery of sociological truths. Thus according to postmodernists nuclear families are not necessarily the most effective family form as suggested by Functionalists and New Right theorists but neither are they necessarily patriarchal as suggested by feminists nor supportive of the capitalist system as suggested by Marxists. In the postmodern world where the powers of the traditional socialisation processes is much reduced individuals are assumed to have much more freedom to respond flexibly to changing circumstances and so, according to postmodernists , it is entirely desirable that individuals should be able to enter into different types of family relationships [or none] and the existence of family diversity is seen as evidence of increased individual freedom in the postmodern era.

Unsurprisingly modernist sociologists argue that the postmodernists’ rejection of modernist sociological perspectives and methods means that they are unable to recognise the ongoing importance of patriarchy and/or capitalism for the analysis of family forms and, indeed, that they are unable to undertake systematic sociological research of any kind. Against this, however, the postmodernists argue that the acceptance of ongoing uncertainty is to be preferred to the dogmatic adherence to fundamentally flawed modernist meta-narratives. Controversy is ongoing.

I hope that this appendix helps to clarify these three approaches to the analysis of family diversity but as mentioned there are also tricky theoretical points which require further investigation.


Essay On Family Resilience

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In 1991 Norman Garmezy developed a theoretical framework for resiliency. Garmezy (1991) proposed three types of protective factors that make up his theoretical framework, which includes individual characteristics of the individual, a close-knit relationship with the family and lastly, social support and structure outside their immediate family. The primary factor in developing resiliency relates to the person's intelligence and character, and Garmezy (1991) states that resilient youth have above average intelligence. Garmezy (1991) defines the second factor in developing resiliency as one that includes the support of family to help with difficult conditions. The third common factor of resilient youth is external support from institutions (Garmezy, 1991). According to Masten (2001) “resiliency refers to a class of phenomena characterized by good outcomes in spite of serious threats to adaptation or development” (p. 228). Garmezy (1991) considers the intelligence level of an individual and ability to possess the mind power to tackle an adverse situation as one pleases as the core characteristics of a resilient individual. Garmezy (1991) resiliency framework allows student affairs professionals is to examine the strengths of disadvantaged students who are faced with various life stressors, but

The Importance Of Resilience In Mental Health

Resilience is known as bouncing back from the adversities and bringing in strength to cope to difficulties. Adversities happen at personal, community and organisational level. Resilience allows the person to come out of the adversity, rather than staying with it and to move forward further. This is a way of maintaining positive mental health and maintaining one’s own well being in the midst of adverse conditions. It enables a person to maintain positive health in the midst of challenges (Mowbray, 2011). It is the way of mobilising one’s own personal and community resources in a way to prevent, control or tolerate the adversity and be enhanced by it. It allows for a good performance in the presence of debilitating factors and risks and exploits

Reflective Essay On Family Work

I feel that this class has changed my whole perception of what family work is, the importance of not getting caught up in the content and focussing on the process of identifying strengths that the family has which can be used to perpetuate ongoing homeostasis. This course also highlighted for me how much more I still need to learn about supporting the family system. I have been working with families for about 10 years, mostly with supporting positive parenting and also with families who have children and youth experiencing mental health concerns. I feel that my process orientated interactions have been effective for my gathering of information but not necessarily helpful for the long-term healthy coping of the family. By watching you, listening to your teachings and participating and observing role plays I feel that these experiences have led to not only practical knowledge but a new perspective of the importance of stepping back and trying to walk in the client’s shoes.

Persuasive Essay On Disabled Children

It seems that people assess the state of public to go for children with high-capacity public schools came with a positive result meaning it is the outcome of 53% agree to go kids included those for public schools meaning it is more than OK half of this opinion. For example, Nicholas Vujicic was a man without any limbs in his body and despite this handicap he was very successful in his studies and graduated from the school decided to enter Griffith University in Australia to study by accounting and despite all the people encouraged by his mother to become a person full of vitality and fulfill all his wishes became Nicholas Responsible for two companies and their management. If this person is disabled, how are the common people or those who are healthy? Despite the lack of parental consent for their child with a disability go to regular school, but it's very useful for those kids because the child will feel that he is no different from the

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