Problem Solving in Families: Research and Practice

By Lohman, Brenda Jo | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 2000 | Go to article overview

Problem Solving in Families: Research and Practice


Lohman, Brenda Jo, Journal of Marriage and Family


Problem Solving in Families: Research and Practice. Samuel Vuchinich. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 1999. 217 pp. ISBN 0-7629-0878-1. $48.50 cloth, $23.50 paper.

Samuel Vuchinich creatively introduces the topic of family problem solving through the inclusion of a dinner narrative. The family conversation portrayed quickly turns into an emotional expression of verbal interactions between adolescent siblings, thus providing the reader with an initial example of the complex nature of family problem solving. In the introduction, Vuchinich lays the groundwork for the organization of the book. Diversity of narratives and research findings emerge from a broad multidisciplinary approach to this research topic, and therefore, Vuchinich reaches the stated aim of his book-to provide an integrated synthesis of the rapid expansion of research on family problem solving.

This well-written book skillfully introduces the readers to the history of family problem solving. Starting with the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, Vuchinich traces the history of family problem solving in philosophy, anthropology, drama, literature, biographies, and personal histories through to the present-day empirical investigations of the social sciences. The book outlines several approaches to provide an integrative analysis of the historical and theoretical study of familial experiences with problem solving. Chapter 2 discusses the origins of the science of family problem solving and acknowledges the connection to current research and practice trends surrounding family problem solving. Beginning with a discussion of Dewey's concepts of rational thought and followed by key points of Freud's irrational problem solving, the reader is then presented with James' instinctual viewpoint regarding problem solving. Chapter 3 addresses the initial empirical investigation of family problem solving dimensions. Two themes emerge throughout this chapter. The first concerns small group investigations and family paradigms, as well as the emergence of family therapy techniques (i.e., strategic family therapy and cognitive-behavioral family therapy). The second theme discusses individual problem solving, including social learning theory, mental health, and cognitive problem solving skills.

The first half of the book crafts a rich, almost exhaustive report of the historical nature of the investigation of family problem solving, whereas the second portion of the book provides thorough coverage of work that focuses on correlates of family problem solving. Family problem solving as a social construct, as an adaptive fitting function of the family, and as a representation and connection to family rituals are each addressed, as are contextual correlates including family conflict, cohesion, and social skills. Vuchinich continues to describe how these factors are influenced by the rational model of family problem solving and our understanding of family problem solving today. The concluding chapters discuss applications of our current knowledge base beyond the rational model of family problem solving. Intervention and prevention strategies are reviewed. Recent advances and current directions in family problem solving leave the reader with multiple ideas for future investigation.

A strength of the text is the consideration to fine detail regarding methodological approaches to studying family problem solving. …

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