Book Reviews -- Research on the African-American Family: A Holistic Perspective by Robert B. Hill, Andrew Billingsley, Eleanor Engram, Michelene R. Malson, Roger H. Rubin, Carol B. Stack, James B. Stewart and James E. Teele

Article excerpt

Research on the African-American Family: A Holistic Perspective. Robert B. Hill, Andrew Billingsley, Eleanor Engram, Michelene R. Malson, Roger H. Rubin, Carol B. Stack, James B. Stewart, & James E. Teele. Westport, CT: Auburn House. 1993. 195 pp. ISBN 0-86569-019-7. $47.95 cloth, $15.95 paper.

In this publication, Robert Hill and associates contribute a timely and well-written work on the status of the African American family. The authors pay particular attention to inadequate research perspectives that have guided and continue to guide social scientists and policy makers. Along with discussing these various prevailing viewpoints, they also offer an alternate perspective for studying and viewing the African American family based on the history and current conditions facing this heterogeneous population.

The book contains five chapters with a preface written by Wornie L. Reed, who serves as General Editor and is with the William Monroe Trotter Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. This volume is one of the four recently produced by this Institute on the status of African Americans. The main purpose of bringing these researchers together is to update the Gunnar Myrdal (1944) study on the status of African Americans in this country, only this time bringing together primarily African American scholars who have written extensively on blacks in the United States.

Chapter 1 gives a good overview of past conceptual perspectives in the literature on African American families and outlines the advantages and disadvantages of those frameworks. This summary was presented primarily to set up what these authors feel to be a superior perspective on which researchers should concentrate as their guide for similar studies--the holistic perspective. The holistic perspective would not focus only on either the strengths or weaknesses of family functioning, as has been the usual practice, but would realistically look at both the weaknesses and the strengths for a balanced analysis. This first chapter provides a foundation for the remaining chapters by focusing reader attention on what these strengths and weaknesses are and how we could best structure our research agenda to focus on those issues.

Chapter 2 concentrates on recent social and economic trends for the heads of the black family. This is a powerful chapter that clearly delineates disturbing trends that have taken place over the last many decades. The widening income and employment gap between blacks and whites, poorer housing, and the increasing number of single-parent families are some examples that these authors focus on as current patterns that affect the functioning of black families. …