The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives (3Rd Ed.)

Article excerpt

Carter, B., & McGoldrick, M. (1999). The Expanded Family Life Cycle: Individual, Family, and Social Perspectives (3rd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon. 541 pages. ISBN 0-205-20009-5. Price: $73.

The third edition of Carter and McGoldrick (Eds.), The Expanded Family Life Cycle, is a valuable resource for family therapists, students of family therapy and family science, as well as a range of professionals working with and advocating for families. Although family therapy terminology is interspersed throughout the book and the final four chapters are written directly to clinicians, the content of the book and the message of recognition and appreciation for diversity are appropriate for a variety of audiences. The book is divided into three parts encompassing 30 chapters written by respected scholars and clinicians in the family therapy field. An expanded definition of family is applied throughout the book with considerable attention paid to diversity in culture and family structure. A multisystem approach is used to examine the family, beginning with individual, immediate, and extended family interactions and expanding to include the influence of community, culture, and society. Within the context of the life cycle framework, the primary goal of the book is to acknowledge the many systemic forces that influence individual and family development over time. Consequently issues of race, gender, class, culture, sexual orientation, ethnicity, spirituality, and religiosity are repeatedly recognized for their impact on development.

The first section of the book, "Conceptual Perspectives," contains 12 chapters that address a range of social issues and their influence on the individual and family system. Chapter 1, authored by the editors, introduces a broader definition of family and emphasizes the conceptual flexibility of the family life cycle framework when applied to diverse family structures. The authors recognize vertical and horizontal family stressors, intergenerational structures, and the importance of sociohistorical context. The passions of Carter and McGoldrick are apparent in their writing and in their strong political statements. They encourage practitioners to go beyond addressing immediate client problems and recognize the larger social context in which their clients live. Family therapists (and other family professionals) are encouraged to raise issues of racism, classism, sexism, and other discriminatory attitudes and to empower themselves and their clients to initiate social change. The remaining chapters in this section address the influence of ethnic culture, class, gender, history, ordinal position, death, migration, and family rituals on family functioning over time. Chapter 3 illustrates how genograms can be used as a therapeutic tool. The chapter consists of a detailed examination of Sigmund Freud's family history using a Freud family genogram. Finally, it was refreshing to see entire chapters dedicated to the effect of culture on family life (chap. 4), men's issues (chap. 7), and sibling relationships (chap. 9).

The second section of the book, "Perspectives on the Evolving American Family," encompasses developmental issues of young adulthood, intimate relationships, parenthood, and aging within the context of the family life cycle. This section celebrates family diversity by providing chapters about the unique challenges and strengths of midlife families, single-parent families, gay and lesbian families, reconstituted families, as well as families living in poverty and experiencing divorce. …