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
McCubbin, Marilyn, Journal of Marriage and Family
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. Ultimately, the book was intended to advance theory, research, and practice. In point of fact, Burr; Klein, and associates have attempted to push family stress theory to another level. This level is characterized by greater internal consistency, and consequently greater insights, regarding the nine different aspects of family systems influenced by stress, the universality of the Koos roller-coaster course of adjustment, and the introduction of other patterns, with the explication of the iatrogenic effects of coping as well as management strategies.
Taking on the challenge of moving family stress theory forward, along with stretching the scholarship f family scientists who choose to study families faced with adversity, the authors introduce two important chapters to aid the reader in gaining a broad overview of the general strategies underlying the development of family stress theory to date: Chapter 2, which. focuses on paradigms and assumptions, and Chapter 3, which introduces their systems model of family stress theory or a systems model of family stress. The reader is quickly brought up to speed on the evolution of the family stress frameworks that have guided scholars to-date. These two chapters and reviews lay the foundation for the authors' assertion that "now is the time to separate the more linear, deterministic causal ABCX ideas from the nonlinear, indeterministic, systemic family stress model" (p. 50)
The- authors bring new theoretical ideas and thus; their three levels of the family stress process to center stage. They argue that the family's behavioral responses are determined by the level of stress, with these responses determining three levels of change: Level I--fairly specific patterns of behavior and progresses, Level II--more fundamental changes in the family system, and Level III--change in values and beliefs.
The remaining chapters reveal the relative merits and efficacy of the aforementioned assertions. While family scholars may long debate (without complete resolution, I might add) the limitations of the data collected and presented to support the merits of their conceptualizations, it also is apparent at the insights and observations, as well as implications, presented are indeed worthy of note and consideration. Family scholars and practitioners, as well as advanced graduate students, would find particular value and interest in Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 8 on the efficacy of our roller-coaster view of family behavior, how specific parts of family systems respond, coping, and management. Not only do these findings call into question current thinking and wisdom, but, without being overly presumptuous, the authors provide new perspectives and insights for future research and theory building.
It is striking to note the convergence of this reexamination and new concepts with the ever-changing nature of family stress research. The authors' conceptualizations of the nine specific aspects of family life, for example, are strikingly similar to the key dimensions in family life as presented in Families: War Makes Them Work (Olson & McCubbin, 1983) and the sequel book, Family Types and Strengths (McCubbin, 1988). The levels of family stress and responses related to corresponding levels (I, II, and III) of change in the levels of family functioning also converge with the research on the levels of family appraisal, levels of family system change, paradigm shifts, and family schemas that characterize the emerging d now-tested frameworks on family resiliency and their application to the study of families of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It is the convergence of these theoretical frameworks and their similarity in propositions and systemic conceptualizations that deserve mention here. This book offers a much-needed link to other independent conceptualizations and empirical studies that are also gaining currency in family research.
Future research on the family changes and stressful events discussed in McKenry and Price's edited volume can build on the new directions for theory building posited in the book by Burr, Klein, and colleagues. Each makes a unique contribution to the family stress field.
Burr, W. R. (1983): Reframing family stress theory: From the ABC-X model to a family ecosystemic model. Unpublished master's thesis, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.
Hill, R. (1949). Families under stress. New York: Harper.
McCubbin; H., & Patterson, J. (1983). The family stress process: The Double ABCX Model of adjustment and adaptation. In H. McCubbin, M. Sussman, & J. Patterson (Eds.), Advances and developments in family stress theory and research (pp. 7-37). New York: Haworth.
McCubbin, H., Thompson, A., Pirner, P., & McCubbin, M. (1988). Family types and strengths: A life cycle and ecological perspective, Edina, MN: Burgess.
Olson, D., McCubbin, H., Barnes, H., Larsen, A., Muxem, A., & Wilson, M. (1983). Families: What makes them work. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.…
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Publication information: Article title: 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. Contributors: McCubbin, Marilyn - Author. Journal title: Journal of Marriage and Family. Volume: 57. Issue: 3 Publication date: August 1995. Page number: 835. © 2002 Journal of Marriage and Family. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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