Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

Retrospect and Prospect in the Psychological Study of Families

Synopsis

This book assembles 11 of the leading thinkers and researchers in the field of family psychology to create a compendium summarizing both what psychology researchers have learned about the family and where the field should be going next. It evolved after the volume's contributors met with other distinguished family scholars to discuss family influences on child development and to ponder how this knowledge could be used to benefit families and children. This volume includes approaches to the family that feature multiple levels and topics of focal interest to benefit anyone interested in the family. Central topics include mothering, fathering, marriages, family group processes, sibling relations, and families as systems. In addition, three senior authors offer road maps to detect, and suggest (a) challenges in research on parenting, (b) marital and family dynamics, and (c) family systems in the years ahead. In keeping with the theme of how research affects the lives of families outside the university lab settings, this volume includes a chapter on the interface between family research and law. This book closes with a "big picture" analysis and critique of what is known and not known. Psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and public policymakers interested in the family should especially find this volume of interest.

Excerpt

As the 2l st century begins, psychologists who have dedicated their research careers to generating a meaningful body of knowledge that can be called on to promote the welfare of children and families find themselves facing new challenges from many fronts. Within the United States, an unswerving movement toward a society that promises to be ever more pluralistic and to boast a wide array of family arrangement§ demands that our field move beyond its traditional view of family life—a view that many critics within academia have criticized as being historically and culturally myopic. At the same time, many grass roots movements within the United States cry out for a return to “traitional family values. ” Shunning evidence suggesting the viability of numerous functional family forms (given adequate societal supports), many religious and political leaders throughout the United States argue that we are ignoring the one, surefire solution to society's woes: returning men to leadership roles in the family and rewarding families that form and maintain stable, heterosexual marital unions. Views of what is wrong with society are plentiful. in some corners, mothers continue to be blamed for all our children's ills. More and more, however, fathers have become the new “culprits, ” held culpable for being absentee figures in their children's lives. Charismatic public figures urge a return to no-nonsense parenting, empowering some struggling young mothers and fathers but simultaneously and unwittingly sanctioning other parents who already lean toward abusive methods to reframe their harsh and overzealous ministrations to children as “responsible parenting. ” There have even been voices maintaining that in the end, families do not actually matter at all because it is children's peer relationship§ that ultimately steer them down paths toward good or ill. and amidst the often rancorous debates, millions of children still suffer abuse, struggle to cope effectively after family dissolution, endure a revolving door of multiple foster placements, or live on the streets with no home at all.

Both laypersons and public figures look to psychologists for help with their questions about children's woes, and psychologists in turn look first to the family interior to search for answers. This propensity to scrutinize family dynamics is perhaps a hallmark of how psychologists have sought to understand and help children for nearly 100 years. Fortunately, a relatively recent and heartening trend in our field has been to expand the focus of study beyond parent-child dyads, and beyond family systems influences, to factors impinging on the family from the sociocultural surround. At the turn of the new millennium, however, the bedrock of what psychologists know about families owes principally to research efforts driven by questions about what helps and what hurts within the complicated . . .

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