Book Reviews -- Families and Change: Coping with Stressful Events Edited by Patrick C. McKenry and Sharon J. Price / Reexamining Family Stress: New Theory and Research by Wesley R. Burr, Shirley R. Klein and Associates

Article excerpt

Families and Change: Coping with Stressful Events. Patrick C. McKenry & Sharon J. Price (Eds.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 1994. 346 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8039-4925-1. $52 cloth, $24.95 paper.

Reexamining Family Stress: New Theory and Research. Wesley R. Burr, Shirley R. Klein, & Associates. Thousand Oaks; CA: Sage. 1994. 220 pp. Hardcover ISBN 0-8039-4929-4. $49.95 cloth, $24 paper.

Family stress theory provides the underlying framework for both of these books. The authors take divergent approaches with the explication of the theory, however, with the result that each book serves a different purpose and audience.

Patrick McKenry and Sharon Price's volume, Families and Change: Coping with Stressful Events, "presents a synthesis and analysis of the vast literature that has emerged in recent years detailing families' responses to various problems and change" (p. vii). A survey of over 400 randomly selected undergraduate and graduate college and university catalogs indicated that over 60% offered courses on family stress and change in a variety of departments and schools. A suitable text, however, was found to be lacking for these courses; this volume is an attempt to fill that gap.

A relatively brief first chapter (16 pages) is the editors' conceptual overview of research on family stress theory, that draws in both the precrisis variables in Hill's ABCX Model (Hill, 1949) and the later depiction of postcrisis variables in the Double ABCX Model (McCubbin & Patterson, 1983). The remainder of the book is divided into two sections: one on stress and change over the family life cycle (gender issues, marital problems, work/family stresses, adolescence, aging, physical and mental illness, and death, dying, and bereavement) and he second on situational stressors (divorce, remarriage and recoupling, drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, ad homelessness). Thus the book addresses both nominative and situational stressors facing families in today's society.

The chapter authors are recognized names in their specialty areas of family research (e.g., Katherine Allen and Kristine Baber on gender from a feminist perspective, David Demo and Lawrence Ganong on divorce, Margaret Crosbie-Burnett on remarriage, and Richard Gelles on family violence). While family diversity is addressed in- terms of gender issues, family stress and change as it affects families of color is regrettably absent.

Three chapters may be used to highlight the value of this book. Colleen Murray emphasizes and demonstrates the importance of both individual stress and family systems stress in understanding death, dying, and bereavement. Sharon Nickols brings to the reader an appreciation for the dynamic interactions between the; world of work and the world of the family as they clash, overlap,; and spill over to impact on the marital relationships Margaret Crosbie-Burnett calls attention to the importance of understanding the difference between precrisis and postcrisis factors in shaping family adaptation in the recoupling process. Crisis in this context, congruent with Reuben Hill's conceptualization, is viewed as a state of disequilibrium calling for system change.

The authors note that the book is intended to be a primary or supplementary text for undergraduate or introductory graduate courses; it does fulfill this purpose. Because of the breadth of topic covered, some depth is sacrificed so that supplementary readings would seem to be needed to give students a more complete picture of how these specific stressors and changes affect family life.

In Reexamining Stress Theory, Wesley Burr, Shirley Klein, and associate's offer the field a fresh perceptive to family stress theory. Their book builds on the earlier theory building efforts by Robert Burr (1983), using a systematic approach, and tests this refined theoretical approach with an empirical study. This theory development includes the introduction of several systemic concepts, insights from qualitative research, and the residual benefits from a meaningful discourse on the limits and advantages of positivism and non positivistic methods of inquiry. …