Book Reviews -- Research and Theory in Family Science by Randal Day, Kathleen R. Gilbert, Barbara H. Settles and Wesley R. Burr

Article excerpt

Day, Randal, Gilbert, Kathleen R., Settles, Barbara H., and Burr, Wesley R. Research and Theory in Family Science. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing. 361 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-534-21780-X, price $40.00.

This is a book that is intended for advanced students who have had some background in family science. It would seem most appropriate for graduate students in a family systems/science program as a part of their family research and systems curriculum. The authors are commendably specific about the audience for which this text is intended and also describe the rationale for the organizational structure they use.

The authors claim to present a unique organizational structure, and, for the most part, they deliver on that claim. Rather than organizing the text around developmental cycles, the authors have organized the book by the various ways experts have used to view family processes. For example, part I examines "Families in Contexts" and looks at societal values and norms, autonomy and connectedness within families, gender interactions, multicultural family science, and the like. Part II discusses theories and research in family science and does so from a relatively broad base of perspectives, including types of theories, specific family systems theory, functional analyses of family behavior, and "The Science of Family Science." Part In is entitled "Understanding Family Processes" and discusses families from an interactional perspective, including a family systems chapter by David Olson and chapters on families in everyday life, communication in families, families and sexuality, and parenting processes. Parts IV and V, entitled "Challenges and Choices for Families" and "Family Science at Work," discuss a variety of topics, including divorce, remarriage, family loss and grief, parenting experts, and careers in family science. Although the organization of the last two sections is not as cohesive as the first three, they still provide useful information regarding topics of interest to the advanced graduate student in family science.

Of note in this book is the overall contextual orientation that is relatively atypical of most family systems texts. Although experts in family relations do well to describe their systems orientation as being one of context, few authors actually play out such orientation in organizing their books. Through reading this book, one gets a sense of what it is like to think systemically and to be aware of context rather than just to be told about it. Even though there is a traditional topical orientation in some sections of this book, the overall organizational thrust is compelling in its uniqueness. I get the strong sense that the authors considered this organizational structure carefully and gave specific instructions to their authors to make reasoned choices that would fit with the overall feel of the book. …